States have until July 28 to apply for a new U.S. Department of Education (ED) grant program that will provide $4.2 million in fiscal year 2003 funding for state officials to design and conduct their own “scientifically based research” of technology’s impact on learning.

This new initiative, called the Evaluating State Education Technology Program, provides funding for states to plan and conduct experimental or quasi-experimental evaluations of a state-selected educational technology initiative. Plus, it provides funding to disseminate the evaluation methods, practices, analyses, and instruments used so other states can learn from and replicate the evaluations.

John Bailey, ED’s director of educational technology, said state officials have expressed interest in conducting more rigorous evaluations of their technology projects—but many lack the necessary scientific survey instruments, data elements, and know-how.

“The only way you can know if something is making a difference is through evaluation,” Bailey said, adding that rigorous evaluations need good survey instruments to identify whether technology is responsible for improving student achievement as opposed to a good teacher or gifted group of students.

With the new requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), state and school leaders need this kind of research more than ever to support their budget planning and purchasing decisions under the law.

“Politicians want to invest their dollars in the programs that have the best impact … [and] when there’s this much funding at stake, it’s important that teachers use practices based on sound research,” Bailey said.

The program will help contribute to the existing research base on educational technology initiatives. States and school districts will be able to borrow research instruments and processes so they can avoid “going through the trials and tribulations of reinventing the wheel, so to speak,” Bailey said.

Bob McIntire, instructional technology specialist for the Maine Department of Education, said his state is considering applying for a grant because it would allow for more rigorous evaluations than what are currently in place.

“It’s very interesting to us because we’ve got so much going on,” McIntire said—not the least of which is a groundbreaking and closely scrutinized effort to provide laptops for all seventh and eighth graders in the state. “This would allow us to evaluate the technology programs we have going on in a more coordinated, more rigorous way than we currently have.”

States can use the funds to study technology that is used to increase student achievement in one or more core academic subjects. The studies should be designed to single out how technology is used to effect the learning outcome, as opposed to a good teacher or gifted group of students.

Examples of programs ED would consider funding include, but are not limited to, these:

• Distance-learning programs that use advanced technologies to deliver instruction to high-need student populations; • Professional development programs that teach educators to integrate advanced technologies into their practices to help students meet academic standards; • Programs that use technology to connect schools and teachers with parents and students; and • Classroom-based courses and curricula that integrate technology and help students meet state standards.

Examples of evaluation activities that may be funded include, but are not limited to, these:

• Studies that compare the achievement of students who attend virtual schools with the achievement of students who attend traditional schools; • Studies that determine how effective various technology-enhanced instructional programs are at in increasing student achievement; and • Studies that examine a technology’s impact on student achievement in a specific academic content area, compared with teaching the same content without technology.

To be eligible, states must form a partnership with at least one higher education institution, research organization, or local education agency. Proposals that use an experimental design are preferred, ED said, explaining that these kinds of evaluations are the strongest at determining program effectiveness.

ED expects to award up to nine grants, each ranging between $300,000 and $650,000 per year for up to three years. Any application that proposes a budget beyond $650,000 for any of the three 12-month periods will be rejected, according to ED.

Applications must be submitted electronically through ED’s new e-GRANTS system. For further information, contact Enid Simmons at (202) 708-9499 or enid.simmons@ed.gov.

Links:

Evaluating State Education Technology Program
http://www.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/announcements/2003-2/061103c.html

e-GRANTS system
http://e-grants.ed.gov