Now in its second year, the Department of Education’s “Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology” (PT3) program continues to push the envelope of technology-education for K-12 teachers. The program, funded by Congress in FY 1999 at $75 million and $75 million again this year, makes multi-year grants to consortia that are developing innovative ways of training new teachers to integrate technology into the classroom.

Spurred by studies indicating that the United States education system will need to produce approximately two million new teachers in the next decade and that these teachers will be expected to use technology extensively, PT3 is an ambitious program. It is designed for projects with wide scope and applicability. As ED notes in its introductory remarks on the program’s web page:

“Adding a new methods course on technology in education, or developing a small cadre of education technology specialists, is not sufficient. The development of technology-proficient teachers must go beyond training in basic computer skills and standard productivity or presentation applications. Grants awarded under this program will support systemic program improvements that transform teacher preparation by infusing technology throughout the educational experience of all future teachers.”

This is a tall order, and ED provides grant recipients with substantial funds for projects that can achieve the aims it sets forth. Grants are typically three-year grants of about $200,000 each year. They are cost-sharing grants in which ED will cover up to 50 percent of the project’s cost (including cash or in-kind, fairly valued, including services, supplies, or equipment).

Grants are awarded in three categories: Capacity Building Grants, Implementation Grants, and Catalyst Grants. ED is not accepting applicants for Capacity Building Grants this year, as these were special grants offered in the first year of the program to assist consortia that were just starting promising projects. If PT3 continues after its initial three-year period, these grants would most likely be revived.

Implementation Grants, of which ED intends to award about 80 this year, range in support from $200,000 to $500,000 a year (average: $400,000 a year for three years). They are designed to support implementation of significant program innovations that will transform teacher preparation programs into 21st-century learning environments. The Implementation Grants competition is open to all applicants, whether they have previously participated in this program or not. It is not necessary to be a Capacity Building grantee to compete for an Implementation Grant.

Catalyst Grants, of which ED will make about 15 awards this year, are designed to help consortia that support organizations that are building improved teacher preparation programs. These awards, typically three-year grants, are worth on average $600,000 annually.

The complexity of the types of projects undertaken under this program has led ED to insist that applicants be consortia, not individual researchers, schools, or school districts. The consortia can include public or private nonprofits, private-sector businesses, education agencies, institutions of higher learning, and even individual schools. However, ED cautions that the consortia must be able to clearly explain the roles of its various members and should not merely add members on the “bigger-is-better” theory.

In addition, the lead organization must be a nonprofit organization that is willing to accept the legal requirements of an ED grantee, and the consortia must include at least one teacher education college.

To indicate that the proposed project will be able to test its impact on students, ED recommends that the groups applying already have a strong relationship with K-12 schools or school districts. This also will enable new teachers taking the program to have a chance to hone their skills in a school environment, ED says.

Focus on new teachers

The goal of the PT3 program goes beyond the basic aim of many tech-ed programs that seek to integrate technology into secondary school classrooms. PT3 seeks to transform education itself by using computers to accommodate students with different learning styles, ED says. Teachers and students will become active learners and use technology to give them access to multiple sources of information and expression. Collaborative learning, replicating many real-world environments, will be a key part of tomorrow’s education, too.

To achieve such ambitious goals, the PT3 program devotes its support solely to training of tomorrow’s teachers. It is explicitly not for in-service training or continuing education of accredited teachers. ED affirmed this stance in a Federal Register announcement on Dec. 28, 1999, pages 72801-72804, in responding to a proposal that it include in-service training. ED noted that of the estimated $1.5 billion in federal funds invested annually in teacher training, only about six percent goes to pre-service training.

In that same Federal Register announcement, DOE also considered—and rejected—other modifications to the program, including:

• Identifying specific consortia that might be good partners;

• Reducing the 50 percent matching requirement; and

• Giving preference to programs focused on areas of acute teacher shortages.

DOE did reiterate that it will give special consideration to programs that are targeted at populations of students who are at a disadvantage—i.e., on the wrong side of the digital divide.

First-year programs showing promise

This is the second year of the program, and ED’s Thomas Carroll, program officer (and former high-level administrator of the eRate), told School Technology Funding Bulletin that many of the 225 projects funded in the initial year already are bringing in promising information.

For K-12 districts, the grant offers a unique opportunity to partner with an institution of higher learning that can serve as a “feeder school” for new (and well-trained) teaching talent.

For a list of first-year grantees, see: n