At long last, the U.S. Department of Education released guidelines for states utilizing ARRA (stimulus) funds for educational technology. Here are the highlights from today’s eSchoolNews article, “ED issues rules on ed-tech stimulus funds.” My thoughts, comments, additions, paraphrases and clarifications are included [in brackets].

dreams of money

States can use up to 5% of funds for “state-level activities:”

Funding will be distributed to states by formula, and states don’t have to submit a revised ed-tech plan to qualify. The report says states may use up to 5 percent of their total EETT stimulus allotment for state-level activities. Any funds that are not reserved for state-level activities must be awarded as subgrants to local educational agencies (LEAs).

Not more than 60% of those “state-level activity” funds can be spent for administrative costs. [That seems pretty high to me.]

As in the past for EETT (Title IID) funds, 25% must be spent by districts on professional development:

As with EETT funding that is distributed through the traditional appropriations process, school district recipients must use at least 25 percent of their EETT stimulus funds to provide ongoing, sustained, and intensive professional development for their staff. This training should focus on the integration of advanced technologies into the curriculum and instruction, and on using these technologies to create new learning environments.

There are five key goals for which ARRA funds should be spent:

  1. Drive results for students [Ugh. I just despise the word “drive” used in this context.]
  2. Increase capacity [to raise test scores]
  3. Accelerate reform [as articulated in ARRA documents, which IMHO really isn’t any change in the status quo we’ve seen with NCLB “reforms”]
  4. Avoid the “funding cliff” and improve productivity [be sustainable]
  5. Foster continuous improvement [evidence required to show impact]

Among other things, the following should be emphasized in ARRA initiatives:
– public-private partnerships
– promote parental involvement and foster communication among students, parents, and teachers
– preparing one or more teachers as technology leaders who will help other teachers
– bonus payments to technology leaders

State reporting requirements fall into four categories for ARRA funds:

(1) the percentage of districts receiving EETT funds that have effectively and fully integrated technology; (2) the percentage of classrooms with internet access in high- and low-poverty schools; (3) the percentage of teachers who meet their state technology standards; and (4) the percentage of students who meet state technology standards by the end of the eighth grade.

— end of summary from eSchoolNews article —

Here in Oklahoma, I’m not sure how we’re going to ask schools to measure that they’ve “effectively and fully integrated technology.” Unlike Texas, which has campus-level as well as teacher “STAR charts” to measure technology integration, we don’t have anything similar. The STAR chart is criticized in some quarters because it is self-reported data, but at least it provides a framework for looking at technology integration on both the individual teacher and campus levels. Bottom line: It provides DATA. In Oklahoma, we don’t have anything like the STAR charts. I’m going to a LoTI Administrator’s workshop in Kansas next week on Monday and will be thinking a lot about these issues, I’m sure. Dean Mantz wrote a good post last week about the ways LoTi has been redesigned as “Levels of Teaching Innovation.” I’m eager to learn more in person Monday.

I’m also uncertain how we (in Oklahoma) are going to meet reporting requirement four, measuring “the percentage of students who meet state technology standards by the end of the eighth grade.” To my knowledge (again unlike Texas) we don’t have state technology standards. We do have a few technology standards scattered throughout the 3000+ other grade level and content area standards for students, but we do NOT have “technology standards.” Perhaps it’s time we established some in Oklahoma?

I really don’t think the establishment of more standards is the path we should take in seeking to advance the learning revolution. I still have mixed feelings about our federal push to spend our way out of our recession (see my May09 post on this as well for more background) but I’m pleased we’re seeing more money for educational technology in my own state.

We desperately need more funding for educational technology resources AND professional development in all of our districts. (Boy could I and other facilitators of our COV project tell you some stories…..)

Texas announced their T3 grant program for ARRA funds back in May. Here in Oklahoma, we haven’t seen our edtech competitive grant RFP released yet. I’m expecting that now we have these federal guidelines, we should see it soon.

Whatever the content of that RFP and whatever districts receive these funds, let’s hope they choose to utilize them “well.” In my view, that means far more than simply purchasing more electronic whiteboards and student response systems. Instead, it means focusing on the 3 C’s of 21st century literacy: Creating, Communicating, and Collaborating. It means purchasing technologies and investing in professional development with teachers which encourages truly student-centered learning, where teachers are facilitators and not simply lecturers, worksheet managers, and prison guards. It means 1:1 learning for students and teachers, with an accompanying pedagogical revolution in teaching practices.

The hour of the learning revolution draws nigh. Who shall answer the call?

amazing sunrise

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