Three Democratic lawmakers and one Republican on May 23 introduced legislation designed to ensure no child is left behind when it comes to technology.
Numerous education organizations hailed the new bill–H.R. 2449, the Achievement Through Technology and Innovation (ATTAIN) Act–saying it will make significant improvements to the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program as part of the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
Introduced by Democratic Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, Ruben Hinojosa of Texas, and Ron Kind of Wisconsin, as well as Republican Rep. Judy Biggert of Illinois, the ATTAIN Act would overhaul EETT, improving support for disadvantaged schools and students and ensuring that teachers are properly equipped to use technology effectively. More specifically, it would focus funds on professional development and systemic reform that leverage 21st-century technologies, prioritize funding to schools in need of improvement, and require states to assess whether students have achieved technological literacy by the eighth grade.
The ATTAIN Act authorizes $1 billion in funding for the revamped EETT program, the same as is currently authorized under EETT, said a spokesman from Roybal-Allard’s office. While $1 billion in funding certainly could boost educational technology, actual funding for EETT has never come close to reaching that mark, ed-tech advocates noted.
The ATTAIN Act is based on input from education stakeholders, including the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), and Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA).
“When schools are properly equipped to meet the technology needs of students, and when they have properly trained teachers, students are engaged, eager to learn, and are ultimately better prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” said Roybal-Allard.
“One of the most effective ways we can sharpen America’s competitive edge is by investing in technology in the classroom,” said Hinojosa. “This bill will further the technological prowess of our nation’s schools and students and ultimately will increase our economic prosperity and capacity for innovation.”
The primary source of federal funding for school technology, EETT is a block-grant program in which the federal government doles out funding to the states, which then pass this funding on to local districts. States must distribute half of the funds competitively and half by formula.
The program has seen its funding decline from nearly $700 million in FY 2004 to $496 million in FY 2005 and then to $273 million last year and this year. Advocates of educational technology say this steady erosion of funds has severely curtailed many states’ and school districts’ ed-tech programs–and it makes no sense, they say, given the president’s stated commitment to ensuring the global competitiveness of American students.
Ed-tech groups who helped influence the new bill say they hope it will target these funds more effectively–which also might lead to broader support for educational technology.
“We are ecstatic that this well-crafted refinement of EETT is beginning to move,” said Don Knezek, chief executive officer of ISTE. “Teachers are our nation’s most valuable resources and absolutely crucial to whether educational 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 introduction of the ATTAIN Act demonstrates that Representatives Roybal-Allard, Hinojosa, Biggert, and Kind understand the important role that educational technology plays in meeting NCLB’s goals and equipping our students with the skills necessary to succeed in the modern workforce,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “We hope that the House will follow their lead and move expeditiously to enact this bill, thereby giving a big shot in the arm to educational technologists, students, and companies across the country.”
The ATTAIN Act would increase the share of state-to-local funding distributed by formula from 50 percent to 60 percent, adding a minimum grant size to ensure that more school districts receive allocations of sufficient size to permit them to operate significant ed-tech programs.
It also would update EETT by 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 percent to 40 percent, while emphasizing the importance of timely and ongoing training.
“For many years, SETDA’s members have provided us with tangible examples of educational technology implementations that yield substantial academic gains; now, we will have the opportunity to bring many of them to scale,” said Mary Ann Wolf, executive director of SETDA. “This legislation’s focus on research-based, systemic reform programs that maximize the benefits of technology is an important opportunity to transform our nation’s schools.”
“We do not want our students to fall behind in this era of innovation and global competition,” said Ken Wasch, SIIA president. “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.”
Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, a national Hispanic civil-rights and advocacy organization, said: “The ATTAIN Act will help ensure that even the most underresourced schools, including those where children who are learning English are concentrated, have the ability to prepare all students to meet the goals of NCLB and the needs of the 21st-century economy.”
In addition to its other functions, the ATTAIN Act would update EETT by 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.
The legislation also would draw 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.
On May 16, Roybal-Allard testified before the House Committee on Education and Labor about the importance of using technology in the classroom to help students excel in school.
“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 Roybal-Allard, who serves on the Appropriations Education Subcommittee. “An effective federal program that provides access to technology for low-income and minority students will help to close this gap.”