The House today approved legislation (the “Every Student Succeeds Act”) to replace the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. We expect the Senate to approve the measure next week and that President Obama will sign the measure in early 2016, setting the stage for the law’s initial implementation during the 2016-2017 school year. The ESSA features provisions focused on supporting and promoting technology use for improving academic achievement, academic growth, and digital literacy. For example, the new law authorizes the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, to study students’ home broadband access behaviors and needs. The new law also authorizes support for professional development opportunities designed to enhance educators and school leaders’ capacities to use technology to support teaching and learning, while also strengthening technology infrastructure and program delivery. This memorandum summarizes these provisions to help state and district leaders begin planning for the law’s implementation. Readers should refer to the statute, and later U.S. Department of Education regulations and guidance, for additional information.
A. Digital Learning Resources Study by the Institute of Education Sciences (Sec. 9210)
The ESSA directs the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to study the educational impact of students’ out-of-school access to digital learning resources. The IES study, which must result in a report to Congress no later than 18 months after the law’s enactment, must include the following elements:
* Analyze student digital learning habits and resources, including the types and locations of technologies and devices students use for learning outside the classroom;
* Identify the barriers students face in accessing digital learning outside the classroom;
* Describe the challenges facing students who lack home Internet access (including challenges related to participation and engagement in the classroom and homework completion);
* Determine how these barriers impact educators’ instructional practices; and
* Describe how states and school districts address students’ lack of access to digital resources outside the classroom.
Congress approved this study to help policymakers’ better understand the role that home broadband access plays in supporting learning and the obstacles students and teachers face when out-of-school broadband access is absent or anemic (the so called “Homework Gap”). The study complements the Federal Communications Commission’s 2014 decision to update and expand the E-rate program to
improve school-based broadband connectivity and the agency’s ongoing rulemaking to enable eligible households to use Lifeline Program subsidies to secure home broadband access.
B. Technology and Student Data Privacy Professional Development (Sec. 2001 et. seq.)
The ESSA authorizes $2.29 billion for improving the quality and effectiveness of teachers, principals, and other school leaders; increasing the number of teachers, principals, and other school leaders who are effective in improving student academic achievement in schools; and providing low-income and minority students greater access to effective teachers, principals, and other school leaders. States and districts may use this program for a variety of professional development and other activities consistent with these three areas, including providing technology and student data privacy focused professional development. For example, among an array of other uses, ESSA specifies that:
* Support training teachers, principals, and other school leaders to effectively integrate technology into curricula and instruction, which may include training to assist teachers in implementing blended learning projects; and
* Support efforts to train teachers on the appropriate use of student data to ensure individual student privacy is protected.
* Support efforts to train teachers on the appropriate use of student data to ensure individual student privacy is protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and in accordance with state student privacy laws and LEA student privacy and technology use policies.
* Provide high-quality evidence-based (to the extent the state, in consultation with local educational agencies in the state, determines that such evidence is reasonably available), personalized professional development for teachers, instructional leadership teams, principals, and other school leaders, focused on improving teaching and student learning and achievement, including supporting efforts to train teachers, principals, and other school leaders to–
(i) Effectively integrate technology into curricula and instruction (including education about the harms of copyright piracy);
(ii) Use data to improve student achievement and understanding how to protect individual student privacy in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and state and local policies and laws in the use of such data;
Consistent with current law, most ESSA Title II funding is directed to school districts. Ninety five percent of program funds are reserved for district level activities, while one percent is allocated for state administration and four percent for state level activities. Notably, the new law also includes an additional, optional, three percent State set aside for State activities directed at principals and other school leaders.
C. Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (Sec. 4101 et. seq.)
The ESSA authorizes additional support – beyond Title II – for education technology focused professional development and infrastructure acquisition. Unlike current law (the Enhancing Education through Technology program) and the Senate ESEA bill (I-TECH), the ESSA does not authorize a freestanding education technology program. Instead, the new law creates a new block grant, distributed by formula through states to districts, called the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (SSAEG) program, which focuses on three core areas:
* Providing all students with access to a well-rounded education (Sec. 4107);
* Improving school conditions for learning (Sec. 4108); and
* Improving the use of technology in order to improve the academic achievement, academic growth, and digital literacy of all students (Sec. 4109).
Although the application, assurances, and funding levels described below apply to the entire block grant, the following section of the memorandum focuses on the new grant’s education technology component.
What types of education technology activities does the SSAEG program support?
School districts, or voluntary district consortia, may use the funds to:
* Provide educators, school leaders, and administrators with the professional learning tools, devices, content, and resources to:
* Personalize learning to improve academic achievement
* Discover, adapt, and share relevant high-quality educational resources
* Use technology effectively in the classroom, including by administering computer based assessments and blended learning strategies
* Implement and support school and district-wide approaches for using technology to inform instruction, support teacher collaboration, and personalize learning
* Building technological capacity and infrastructure, which may include:
* Procuring content and ensuring content quality; and
* Purchasing devices, equipment, and software applications in order to address readiness shortfalls
* Developing or utilizing effective or innovative strategies for the delivery of specialized or rigorous academic courses and curricula through the use of technology, including digital learning technologies and assistive technology
* Carrying out blended learning projects (see definition below), which shall include:
* Planning activities, which may include development of new instructional models (including blended learning technology software and platforms), the purchase of digital instructional resources, initial PD activities, and one time information technology purchases, except that such expenditures may not include significant construction or renovation of facilities.
* Ongoing PD for teachers, principals, other school leaders, or other personnel involved in the project that is designed to support the implementation and academic success of the project
* Providing professional development in the use of technology to enable teaches and instructional leaders to increase student achievement in the areas of STEM (including computer science)
* Providing students in rural, remote, and underserved areas with the resources to take advantage of high quality digital learning experiences, digital resources, and access to online courses taught by effective educators.
NO MORE THAN 15% OF FUNDS MAY BE USED FOR PURCHASING TECHNOLOGY INFRASTRUCTURE.
How does SSAEG program define “blended learning” and “digital learning?”
Blended Learning –
“The term ‘blended learning’ means a formal education program that leverages both technology-based and face-to-face instructional approaches-
“(A) that include an element of online or digital learning, combined with supervised learning time, and student-led learning, in which the elements are connected to provide an integrated learning experience; and
“(B) where students are provided some control over time, path, or pace.
Digital Learning Definition –
The term ‘digital learning’ means any instructional practice that effectively uses technology to strengthen a student’s learning experience and encompasses a wide spectrum of tools and practices, including-
“(A) interactive learning resources, digital learning content (which may include openly licensed content), software, or simulations, that engage students in academic content;
“(B) access to online databases and other primary source documents;
“(C) the use of data and information to personalize learning and provide targeted supplementary instruction;
“(D) online and computer-based assessments;
“(E) learning environments that allow for rich collaboration and communication, which may include student collaboration with content experts and peers;
“(F) hybrid or blended learning, which occurs under direct instructor supervision at a school or other location away from home and, at least in part, through online delivery of instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace; and
“(G) access to online course opportunities for students in rural or remote areas.
How much funding does the ESSA authorize for the SSAEG program?
The ESSA authorizes $1.65 billion for the SSAEG program in fiscal year 2017 and $1.6 billion for fiscal years 2018 to 2020. Please note that while this authorization level is significant, Congress must also annually appropriate funding for the program and may opt to provide a lower or higher funding level. We expect, however, that the program will benefit from strong bipartisan support during the annual appropriations process. Republicans, including House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman Kline, championed creation of the SSAEG block grant as a more flexible funding model for states and districts, and the program supports work aligned with key Democratic priorities.
State funding allocations for SSAEG are determined based on the ESSA’s Title I formulas. Once allocated to the state, most (ninety five percent) program funding will flow to school districts, while states may reserve one percent of the state’s aggregate formula allocation for administration and four percent for state activities. This state-district funding model is consistent with other programs authorized by the ESSA.
Districts MUST, under the new statute, use at least twenty percent of their SSAEG funds for well- rounded educational opportunities; and at least twenty percent of funding for safe and healthy students programs. The remaining sixty percent may be used for activities to support the effective use
of technology and at least a “portion” must be used for at least one activity supporting the effective use of technology.
What issues and assurances must states address in the SSAEG plan?
State plans must describe how the state education agency will use SSAEG program funds for state-level activities and ensure district awards are used consistent with program requirements. State must also provide assurances that they will: (1) review existing resources and programs coordinate them with initiatives supported by this program; (2) monitor program implementation and provide technical assistance to districts; (3) provide for equitable access to the activities supported by the program.
What requirements must state follow when they use SSAEG funding?
States must use their SSAEG set-aside funds (four percent of the total provided to the state) for school district monitoring, training, technical assistance and capacity building. States must also use program funds for public reporting about how the funds are being used by school districts, including noting progress toward meeting program objectives and outcomes.
States may use SSAEG funds for identifying and eliminating State barriers to the coordination and integration of programs, initiatives, and funding streams so that districts can better coordinate with other agencies, schools, and community based services. States may also use their funding to support districts in delivering programs and activities using these funds. This support includes:
* Increasing access to personalized, rigorous learning experiences supported by technology by:
* Providing technical assistant to school districts to improve their ability to:
o Identify and address technology readiness needs, including devices, access to libraries, Internet connectivity, operating systems, and related network security and infrastructure and data security
o Use technology, consistent with universal design for learning, to support the learning needs of all students including students with disabilities and English language learners, and building capacity for principals and other school leaders to support teachers in using data and technology to improve instruction and personalize
* Supporting schools in rural and remote areas to expand access to high-quality digital learning opportunities
* Developing or utilizing strategies for delivering specialized or rigors academic courses and curricula through technology, which may include increased access to dual or concurrent enrollment opportunities, CTE, and programs leading to a credential.
* Disseminating promising practices related to technology instruction, data security, and the acquisition and implementation of tools and applications
* Providing teachers, paraprofessionals, school libraries and media personnel special instructional support and administrators with the skills and knowledge to use technology effectively, including effective integration of technology to improve instruction and student achievement
* Making instructional content widely available through open educational resources, which may include providing tools and processes to support LEAs in making such resources widely available
What issues must school districts address in their SSAEG program applications to states?
Districts must consult with stakeholders (e.g., parents, teachers, principals, school leaders, CBOs) in developing their SSAEG applications. They must also conduct a needs assessment, including examining access to personalized learning experiences supported by technology and professional development for the effective use of data and technology. School districts may apply to their states for SSAEG funding, through a common application submitted as part of a consortia with other surrounding districts.
District applications must describe partnerships – if any – with institutions of higher education, business, non profit organization, community based organizations, or other private/public entities; how funds will be used for activities supported by program funds, including activities related to supporting the effective use of technology and the program objectives and intended outcomes.
Districts must provide assurances that they will prioritize SSAEG funding for schools with greatest need, schools with the highest percentages or numbers of Title I students, schools identified for comprehensive support and improvement under 1111, and schools identified as persistently dangerous.
The ESSA represents an important federal commitment to supporting state and district education technology initiatives. In recent years, the Administration and Congress failed to support investments in the legacy Enhancing Education through Technology program authorized by the No Child Left Behind Act, but Congress’s decision to prioritize technology in the ESSA will provide a new impetus and stronger foundation for securing funding for the SSAEG program, beginning in fiscal year 2017. The U.S. Department of Education will be responsible for implementing the SSAEG program and technology stakeholders should be prepared in 2016 to inform the Department’s approach to the program. State and district leaders should also begin early planning consistent with the program parameters described in the statute, so that they are prepared to fully realize the program’s benefits and ability to support state and local education technology initiatives.
Source: FORESIGHT LAW + POLICY 1030 15th Street, NW, Suite 1050W Washington, D.C. 20005 Phone: 202.499.6996