Obama highlights $90M ed-tech agency

A proposed federal agency would focus on expanding ed-tech learning opportunities.

Educational technology advocates applauded President Obama’s focus on college and career readiness and his call for a new federal agency devoted to ed-tech innovations, which he expanded on in a March 8 speech in Boston.

“I want everyone to pay attention. Even as we find ways to cut spending, we cannot cut back on job-creating investments like education,” he told a crowd at TechBoston Academy in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood on March 8. “There’s nothing responsible about cutting back on our investment in these young people.”

Obama was joined by philanthropist Melinda Gates in the latest stop on his month-long push for an education agenda aimed at garnering bipartisan support for more flexibility and accountability for teachers, an increased emphasis on educational technology, and more innovative standards for students.

The school visit also was designed to draw attention to Obama’s call for the creation of a federal agency designed to pursue breakthroughs in educational technology. Obama requested $90 million for the agency’s first year in the budget blueprint he sent to Congress last month.

The proposal would create an Advanced Research Projects Agency – Education (ARPA-ED), with the goal of transforming educational technology just as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has transformed military technology.

ARPA-ED would further catalyze the ed-tech industry by sponsoring the synthesis and vetting of public and private research and development efforts; identifying breakthrough development opportunities, shaping the next wave of research and development; investing in the development of new educational technology, learning systems, and digital learning materials; and identifying and transitioning the best and most relevant research and development from other federal agencies.

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