Rethinking NCLB and Technology’s Role in Education
The ATTAIN Act, hailed by education and technology industry leaders, recognizes that the use of technology, systemic school change and professional development are essential to global competitiveness.
by Mary Axelson
"Obtaining critical technological skills is of greatest concern to low-income minority students who are falling further behind their higher-income peers in terms of 21st Century college and workplace skills,” said Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, in testimony before the Committee on Education and Labor. “An effective federal program that provides access to technology for low-income and minority students will help to close this gap."
Accordingly, Roybal recently co-sponsored legislation designed to improve the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT, Title II-D of NCLB) program as part of the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). HR 2449, the Achievement Through Technology and Innovation (ATTAIN) Act, would revamp EETT (Title II-D of NCLB), improving support for disadvantaged schools and students and ensuring that teachers are properly equipped to use the technology effectively.
“One of the most effective ways we can sharpen America’s competitive edge is by investing in technology in the classroom,” said Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), a co-sponsor. “This bill will further the technological prowess of our nation’s schools and students and will ultimately increase our economic prosperity and capacity for innovation.”
Measuring Technological Literacy
The bill concentrates funds on professional development and systemic reform that leverage 21st century technologies and prioritize funding to schools in need of improvement. The existing legislation asks that students be technologically literate by the eighth grade, and requires states to assess whether this goal has been reached, but provides no definition of the term. ATTAIN defines technological literacy as:
Student knowledge and skills in using contemporary information, communication and learning technologies in a manner necessary for successful life-long learning and citizenship in the knowledge-based, digital, and global 21st century, which includes the abilities to effectively communicate and collaborate; to analyze and solve problems; to access, evaluate, manage and create information and otherwise gain information literacy; and to do so in a safe and ethical manner.
The law clarifies that states are not expected to develop separate assessments of technology literacy, and it opens the task to “embedding such assessment items in other State tests, performance-based assessment portfolios, or through other means." The bill also clarifies that "such assessments shall be used only to track student technology literacy and not for purposes of determining adequate yearly progress."
An NSF project to define and measure technology literacy may also prove influential. Its 2006 report on the issue, Tech Tally: Approaches to Assessing Technological Literacy, recommended new NSF studies asking subsets of students “what they have learned about technology both in and out of school, and how they would troubleshoot everyday problems involving technology;” adding questions about technology to existing tests that measure students' knowledge in mathematics, science, and history; and assessing the technological literacy of teachers.
A few examples of existing technology assessments are worth watching. Two years ago the state of Florida developed a performance-based assessment of teacher’s skills linked to professional development. That technology framework is being expanded to student assessment. The UK’s work with technology-based performance assessments in a virtual world may also receive greater attention if states seek embedded technology assessment.
Professional Development for Global Competitiveness
Along with Representatives Roybal-Allard and Hinojosa, U.S. Representatives Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Ron Kind (D-WI) helped introduce the ATTAIN Act. It is based upon input from education stakeholders, including the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), and the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SEDTA).
Don Knezek, CEO of ISTE, spoke of the focus on professional development. “Teachers are our nation’s most valuable resources and absolutely crucial to whether education technology implementations succeed. The ATTAIN Act’s focus on technology professional development will help ensure that our investments in school hardware, software and infrastructure are leveraged for the benefit of our nation’s students.” The law itself identifies a lack of professional development and systemic change as the reason a recent study of software products showed no academic advantage for the technology.
CoSN CEO Keith Krueger praised the sponsoring legislators for understanding “the important role that education technology plays in meeting NCLB’s goals and equipping our students with the skills necessary to succeed in the modern workforce.”
“We do not want our students to fall behind in this era of innovation and global competition,” said Ken Wasch, president of SIIA. “Technology is vital for providing students with a learning environment that prepares them for the world beyond the classroom. The ATTAIN Act will ensure our educational system adopts modern methods to remain effective in the digital, information economy. We thank Representatives Roybal-Allard, Hinojosa, Biggert and Kind for their leadership on this important legislation.”
According to press releases, the ATTAIN Act would update the existing EETT program by:
Increasing the share of state-to-local funding distributed by formula from 50% to 60% and adding a minimum grant size in order to assure that more school districts receive allocations of sufficient size to permit them to operate significant education technology programs.
Strengthening the program’s emphasis on teacher quality and technology skills by raising the portion of formula-grants set aside for professional development from 25% to 40%, while emphasizing the importance of timely and ongoing training.
Channeling the 40% of funds allocated for competitive grants, previously unrestricted, to schools and districts for systemic school reform built around the use of technology to redesign curriculum, instruction, assessment and data use.
More closely aligning the program with NCLB’s core mission by giving priority in competitive grant awards to schools identified as in need of improvement, including those with a large percentage of Limited English Proficient students and students with disabilities, as well as by focusing formula grants on students and subjects where proficiency is most lacking.
Renewing NCLB’s commitment to ensuring that students are technologically literate by the eighth grade through requiring states to assess student knowledge and skills, including through embedding assessment items in other state tests and performance-based assessments portfolios.
Drawing state, district and school attention to the age and functionality needs of school technology infrastructure, access and applications by requiring states to provide technical assistance and guidance to districts on updating these resources.
Press release from ISTE's Web site
Congresswoman Roybal-Allard’s testimonyNSF Press Release for Tech Tally: Approaches to Assessing Technological Literacy .
Subscribe to the K12 Blueprint e-Newsletter
Link to Us
K-12 Computing Blueprint is hosted by Technology & Learning, NewBay Media, LLC Copyright © 2007