U.S. Department of Education (ED) officials and state ed-tech leaders have unveiled a new toolkit designed to help states and school districts implement the technology provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

Announced at a press conference in Washington, D.C., April 9, the resource includes specific guidance for implementing the new education law and best practices from various states regarding such issues as scientifically based research, technology literacy assessment, common data elements, and effective teaching using technology. It also makes recommendations for the new National Education Technology Plan that is due in January.

The toolkit, called “The National Leadership Institute Toolkit: States Helping States Implement NCLB,” is the result of discussions held at a national summit last December where state leaders worked closely with research experts and federal officials to draft strategies to implement the technology pieces of NCLB.

“The results from the National Leadership Institute provide another example of how [ED] is committed to working with states to successfully implement No Child Left Behind. Even more importantly, it demonstrates what can be accomplished when state leaders work together,” Education Secretary Rod Paige said in a statement.

Members of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA)—which represents all 50 states—identified the topics of greatest concern, as NCLB has added significantly to the demands on school technology directors. The law requires schools to improve their accountability systems, provide high-quality teachers in every subject area, and ensure that students are technology literate by the eighth grade.

The toolkit will help schools meet these challenges with step-by-step guides, checklists, definitions, answers to frequently asked questions, and other practical resources for implementing the technology aspects of NCLB.

“The real value of this toolkit is the insight offered by state educational technology leaders who are primarily responsible for implementing NCLB,” said Anita Givens, SETDA chair and director of educational technology for the Texas Education Agency.

“Working together, we’re able to solve problems collectively that independently we would not be able to,” she added. “One thing we cannot afford is recreating and inventing things that other state leaders have already created.”

Some of the resources included in the toolkit are:

  • Essential questions and answers for developing a statewide scientifically based research program and eight steps on how to get started;
  • A framework and criteria for measuring technology literacy;
  • Recommendations to ED about what common data elements should be collected to meet Title II, part D of NCLB;
  • A matrix outlining assessment strategies for evaluating effective teaching with technology; and
  • A set of key components essential to building a National Education Technology Plan, including themes, recommendations, and stakeholders to consult.

“This toolkit is significant because it truly does represent a consensus among state leaders on the best ways to interpret and implement today’s education law,” said Melinda George, executive director of SETDA.

An important milestone of the toolkit is its consensus on what information states should collect from schools and how they should collect it.

“SETDA ought to be commended for pulling states together on this [issue] to provide common data that can be compared easily,” said John Bailey, ED’s director of educational technology.

The toolkit actually is a work in progress. “There’s quite a bit of work left to do. This is really a starting point,” George said.

SETDA will continue to refine existing models by building more tools, continuing research, and evaluating existing programs. Some the items to be added in the future include success stories of scientifically based research programs, state-level survey instruments based on the common data elements, and collective, comprehensive information about the various technology assessments used by states.

State leaders who already have begun using the tools available on the SETDA web site say they are essential to helping them implement the law.

Nicole Nokovich of the Pennsylvania Department of Education said the toolkit has helped her state get a better handle on program evaluation. It “has provided some insight of what avenues to go down,” she said.

New funding for ed-tech research

In other news from the press conference, Bailey said ED will be announcing a new $4.2 million grant later this year that will provide states with funding to conduct their own scientifically based research of technology’s impact in schools.

“We won’t be able to hit every state with this $4.2 million, but we hope to help a couple of states develop assessments,” Bailey said.

This research will contribute to the existing body of ed-tech research, he said, adding that it will be disseminated through ED’s What Works Clearinghouse and other web sites.

The process of creating a new National Education Technology Plan will begin in the next few weeks, Bailey said. The planning process will commence after most states have finished their own plans so that the national plan will reflect what the states are doing. ED hopes to have the final draft ready by December.

Students will be involved in the planning process through focus groups. Bailey explained that kindergarten students entering school today have been immersed in a world of technology to a greater extent than any other generation of students in history and will have much greater expectations of their schooling.

Access to DVDs, cell phones, the internet, hundreds of cable channels, and digital video recorders is “influencing and changing what [students are] expecting to experience in schools,” Bailey said.

Besides students, the planning process will include as many stakeholders as possible. “It’s a different way of approaching a technology plan, but it’s the way we are going to do it,” Bailey said.

Links:

U.S. Department of Education
http://www.ed.gov

State Educational Technology Directors Association
http://www.setda.org

No Child Left Behind Act
http://www.nochildleftbehind.gov