Data & Research EVALUATION OF PROGRAMS
National Educational Technology Trends Study State Strategies Report: Vol. 1
Executive Summary


Introduction

The recent proliferation of information and communication technologies, including desktop and laptop computers, handheld devices, cell phones, portable video players, and the Internet, has transformed the world in which we live. In just a decade or two, the ways in which people shop, bank, work, and communicate have changed sufficiently to suggest to many that children growing up today will require a new and more demanding intellectual skill set to thrive in adulthood than their parents did. As a result, many experts recommend that students' educational experiences be reformed to better prepare students for their future. These efforts have renewed emphasis on developing mathematics, science, engineering and technology proficiency among our nation's youths.

As information and communication technologies place increased demands on workers and families, they also have the power to enhance and extend formal and informal educational opportunities. Educational technologies, when used properly and in coordination with a variety of school reforms, have been shown to enrich learning environments and enhance students' conceptual understanding. Indeed, educational systems across the country have embraced the potential of technologies to improve schooling. In the past 10 years, all levels of government have invested significant resources to support the integration of school-based technologies in teaching and learning practices. The ratio of students per instructional computer has consistently dropped over the years, as computers and related software have become increasing available to teachers and students. And after several years of federal, state, and local investment in information technology, a majority of teachers in public schools consider particular technologies essential to their teaching.

The federal government has played an important role in modernizing schools and their technical capacity, administering several programs to improve telecommunications and Internet access, purchase hardware and educational software, provide technology-related professional development and other technology supports, and fund the research and development of innovative uses of technology for educational purposes. The Enhancing Education Through Technology program (EETT) is among the largest of such programs at the U.S. Department of Education. The EETT program, authorized by Title II, Part D, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), provides formula grants to states for promoting the use of educational technology to improve student achievement. States, in turn, provide formula and competitive grant awards to districts within their state. Through the activities that EETT supports, the program explicitly recognizes that the presence of computers and network connections in schools, though necessary, is insufficient to meet the program's primary goal: improved student achievement. EETT is designed to improve the capacity of high-poverty schools to improve student academic achievement through the use of educational technologies, and it is the focus of this report.

About This Report

This report discusses the role of the EETT program, the state priorities and programs that EETT supports, and the relationship between state educational technology program activities and the overarching goals and purposes of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Chapter 1 of this report describes state educational technology policies and related programs, including the role of the EETT program in state efforts. Chapter 2 presents individual state profiles that present data summarized in Chapter 1. [  1  ] 

This report is part of the U.S. Department of Education's National Educational Technology Trends Study (NETTS), a multiyear evaluation that documents the implementation of the EETT program. The report draws primarily on data from NETTS surveys of state educational technology directors and district technology coordinators that were gathered in 2004 and 2005 [  2  ]  and case study data gathered by NETTS in six states in 2004. [  3  ]  The survey results reported below focus on administrators' perceptions of needs and strategies as opposed to providing direct evidence of needs or strategies, unless otherwise noted. The state survey asked state educational technology directors about state priorities for educational technology and administration of the EETT grant program. The district survey asked district technology coordinators about current and past activities supported by the EETT program and other general educational technology activities in their districts. State case study data are used to illustrate themes raised by state survey data.

These data describe the EETT program in its first and second years of operation. It should be recognized that some states were still completing their educational technology plans and getting their EETT implementation procedures in place during this time. In addition, these data and other NETTS data sources do not address the relationships between educational technology use and student academic achievement. Evaluation of the impact of educational technology on academic achievement is beyond the scope of this study.

Key Findings: State Educational Technology Policies and Practices

  • Forty-two states reported having technology standards for students in place by fall of 2004.

    Of the 42 states that had student technology standards, 18 reported having "stand-alone" standards, and 16 reported embedding technology standards with other academic content standards. The remaining eight states reported having both stand-alone technology standards and integrated standards. The second goal of the legislation authorizing EETT is to assist students in becoming technologically literate by the end of eighth grade. Eighteen states reported that student technology literacy was a specific priority for their EETT grants in fiscal year (FY) 2003. Thirteen states reported requiring a student technology literacy component in their competitive grant applications.

  • Two states reported that they used statewide assessments of students' proficiency with technology.

    Assessments required and collected at the state level allow a common framework for evaluation of state standards across a state and increase the probability that results can be compared across districts. Although only two states reported using statewide assessments, there is reason to think that several more states will soon assess student technology proficiency. Eleven states reported plans to assess student technology skills.

    More students may have their technology proficiency evaluated than state statistics suggest. An additional 13 states reported that districts assessed student progress toward technology proficiency. [  4  ]  More than a third of states (35 percent) described themselves as "not yet decided" with respect to whether they would assess students' technology literacy in years to come.

  • Many states have put in place minimum standards for teachers' use of technology, and five states reporting using statewide assessments of teachers' technology proficiency in FY 2004.

    More than half of the states (27) reported on the NETTS survey that they had technology standards for teachers in order to specify the knowledge and skills that teachers need to use technology for administrative or instructional purposes. Five states formally assessed teachers' technology skills at the state level. Five other states that do not assess the technology skills of teachers reported that they were planning to do so.

  • Just over half of states reported the provision of activities related to online education, with 26 states reporting that they provided online courses, tutorials, software, and other academic content and resources in core subject areas.

    State educational technology directors were also asked about state policies related to technology-enhanced assessment, which has the potential to improve traditional paper-and-pencil assessments. Sixteen states reported offering Internet- or computer-based assessments of students' academic achievement. Five states made electronic networks and other distance learning a priority for EETT competitive grants in FY 2003.

Key Findings: State Administration of the EETT Program

    Formula Grants

  • In school year 2003-04, states awarded more than 13,000 formula grants to local authorities.

    Formula grants to districts differ greatly in size, but this variation is attributable to large differences in the numbers of high-need students served. States award EETT formula grants to districts on the basis of the district's proportionate share of funding under Title I, Part A, for the same fiscal year. In FY 2003, formula grants to districts ranged from $1 to $20,980,099, with an average amount of $21,275.

  • Formula grants of $5,000 or less account for just 4 percent of total formula funds but 39 percent of the number of formula grants.

    Despite concern about the number of formula grants that would be too small to support meaningful activity, analyses revealed that only 4 percent of EETT formula grant funds were distributed to local education agencies in amounts less than $5,000. Although this represents a small percent of total funds, grants in amounts less than $5,000 account for 39 percent of all formula grants. Administration of small formula grants, therefore, is likely to take more time and effort than the amount of funds distributed might otherwise suggest.

  • Competitive Grants

  • In school year 2003-04, states made more than 1,600 competitive grant awards, with award sizes averaging about $154,000. On average, states awarded 33 competitive grants, but the range for the number of competitive awards in a state was from five to 102 grants.

    The range in competitive award sizes was considerable, ranging from $1,000 to more than $6 million. Competitive grants to districts or partnerships in FY 2003 ranged from $1,000 to $6,655,600, with an average amount of $154,261. States could only award competitive grants to districts and partnerships that were also eligible for formula grants. The numbers and ranges of competitive grants varied widely across states, suggesting different philosophies about whether to spread competitive grant funds widely or concentrating them in fewer, larger awards. State average competitive grant amounts ranged from $2,603 to $854,919. Eleven states awarded competitive grants to all the districts that applied. In contrast, 17 states awarded grants to fewer than half of the districts that applied. Among the factors likely to affect the number and range of competitive awards in states are the total number of EETT-eligible districts in a state, the total amount of EETT funds available, and pressure to distribute funds to a majority of districts in "local control" states. In addition, some state leaders appear convinced that sizable awards are necessary to effect change in districts.

  • Many eligible districts did not apply for competitive funds in FY 2003.

    The proportion of non-applying eligible districts varied by state. In 20 states, 20 percent or fewer of eligible districts applied. Data suggest that technology directors in some districts did not know that they were eligible or did not expect to get funds if they applied. In addition, some district technology coordinators reported that they did not have the resources to apply.

  • In their EETT competitive grant programs, almost half of the states gave priority to grant applications from partnerships.

    Given the overwhelming costs and challenges of establishing an adequate technological infrastructure in education, all levels of government, public-private partnerships, and local communities can provide critical input, leadership, and financial support for educational technology. The majority of states emphasized the promotion of roles for multiple stakeholders in making their EETT grants. A quarter gave priority to applications that emphasized parent and family involvement.

  • Officials in 38 states said they gave priority to teacher professional development in their competitive grant programs.

    Recognizing the importance of professional development if technology is to be used effectively in schools, ESEA requires local recipients of EETT funds to allocate at least 25 percent of those funds for professional development in the integration of technology into instruction. [  5  ]  Given the level of state grants awarded under EETT, an estimated $600 million supported teacher professional development on technology integration over the five-year lifespan of the program. States appear to have embraced the professional development aspect of the EETT program. Officials in 28 states used part of their federal EETT set-aside funds to support research and development activities on professional development for technology integration.

Conclusions

The EETT program is the U.S. Department of Education's only program dedicated to the integration of educational technology in high-poverty elementary and secondary schools across the country, and it continues a tradition of federal support for educational technology The design of EETT set forth in Title II, Part D, of ESEA, attempts to balance the strengths and weaknesses associated with both formula and competitive grant mechanisms. NETTS case study data highlight the value of incorporating both the formula and competitive elements. Formula grants allocate funds directly to those districts serving the highest-need populations; competitive grants, on the other hand, give states leverage in promoting their particular priorities among high-need districts. Formula grants ensure that districts receive some portion of funding in proportion to objective, need-based standards, but states have no influence on where the formula funds go or how they are spent. On the other hand, states have a stronger role with respect to the half of the EETT program that consists of competitive grants. For the first time in FY 2006, state EETT officials will have an opportunity to award all funds through competitive provisions due to the decrease of funding available to the program at the federal level. Of interest in future reports will be the degree to which states embrace this opportunity and the ways it appears to influence program operation.

States are required to evaluate their EETT programs and may use a portion of the state-level funds available to them through EETT. However, survey and case study data suggest that states may not have adequate funding to design and implement rigorous evaluations. Results from case studies suggest that some states have attempted to leverage state funds by requiring data collection with common instruments across the state or encouraging districts to contribute funds to a common pool for what amounts to the funding of statewide evaluations by local grantees, but these efforts may not be sufficient to link EETT investments with student academic achievement, the program's primary goal. Indeed, evaluations that can adequately isolate the effects of educational technology on student academic achievement require complex designs. The measures and methods that would be necessary to estimate the independent effects of technology, instruction, students' prior achievement, and other likely contributors to student performance are likely beyond the human and financial capacities available to many states. In an effort to establish links between the EETT program and student academic achievement and to build state capacity to conduct rigorous evaluations of educational technologies, nine states received additional funding from the Department to conduct rigorous, high-quality state evaluations of educational technology under the Evaluating State Educational Technology Programs (ESETP). Awards to states amounted to more than $1 million per state over a three-year period, which is considerably higher than the median amount of allowable state-level funding available through the EETT program, again suggesting that high-quality evaluations cost much more than most states can afford through the EETT program.

Data reported in this document were collected in FY 2002 and FY 2003, the first two years of EETT program operation. In the first years of the program, states reported emphasizing professional development, technology integration, and student achievement, in keeping with the intentions of ESEA. As NETTS data collections move to the district and school levels, NETTS will examine the quality of the activities funded through EETT and their alignment with the goal of raising student achievement. In addition, NETTS will conduct a second state survey in winter 2006-07 to collect information about program policies and practices as the EETT program continues to evolve. The survey will concentrate in greater depth on how the EETT program works in coordination with other federal and state educational technology programs as well as state programmatic activities, such as professional development, technology integration, and evaluation. The survey will update information on administrative practices of the EETT program, including the size and number of grant awards, and it will support examination of trends in the implementation of the EETT program from its inception in FY 2002 through FY 2006. Additional district and teacher surveys are also planned for the spring of 2007.


Notes:

  1. While the EETT program requires LEAs to provide equitable services to private school students and teachers, this report does not address the participation of private school students and teachers.
  2. The NETTS project collected survey data from state technology coordinators in the 50 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) and Puerto Rico in 2004 and from 916 district technology coordinators sampled to represent the 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, and nondistrict entities receiving EETT funding as lead entities in 2005. Data were gathered on states' and districts' EETT programs and on their technology practices more generally.
  3. Case study data were collected from Kansas, Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia.
  4. No data regarding whether districts do in fact assess student technology proficiency are available. Future NETTS reports will address this issue.
  5. Districts where technology-related professional development is already being provided or deemed unnecessary may request a waiver from their state education agencies.

 
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Last Modified: 02/20/2007