Department of Education Updates District Leaders

During the 2018 annual Consortium of School Networking conference, the U.S. Department of Education provided district technology leaders with fresh information on a number of tech-related education programs.

by / March 21, 2018

Staffers from the U.S. Department of Education were present at the 2018 annual Consortium of School Networking conference to update the group on the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program, the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP), Title II and Title IVA of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act ((ESEA) as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)), and updates from the privacy office.

EIR

The department has held competitions since 2010 for the Investing in Innovation Fund or the Education in Research (EIR) Program, which replaced the Innovation Fund in ESSA.

According to the department, those who should apply for EIR funds include, “Persons who are school principals or other school leaders (such as curriculum coordinators or coaching specialists), teachers, district leaders, foundation officers, university faculty (who work with schools), researchers, evaluators, professional development providers or other individuals who have significant and current K-12 education experience. More specifically, applicants' backgrounds should include: 

  • Persons who have administrative, project management or some other leadership experience which helps them to bridge their understanding of what happens in the classroom with what it takes to implement, sustain, and grow new educational programs.
  • Persons who are interested in identifying what is new or innovative nationally in K-12 education, and in determining how those innovations can be successfully evaluated, scaled, and disseminated.”

EIR is a tiered grant, providing funds to districts that fall into early-phase, mid-phase and expansion. The idea of the program is to help districts scale up the work they are doing, while finding a sustainable model while doing so.

The department is hopeful they will publish notices for EIR in April for the grant. The notices will depend on budgeting. Those who receive EIR funds are also required to do a third party evaluation on the learning methods that are being implemented using EIR funds.

REAP

Part B of Title VI of the reauthorized ESEA contains Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) initiatives that are designed to help rural districts that may lack the personnel and resources to compete effectively for federal competitive grants and that often receive grant allocations in amounts that are too small to be effective in meeting their intended purposes. The grant process is currently open and will remain open through April 21st. The department stated that most of the funds from this program have been used for 1:1 programs, smartboards, technology updates, and broadband for rural districts. This program is one of the highest in volume, and in order to qualify a district must be under 600 by average daily attendance.

Teachers' Use of Technology for School and Homework Assignments

Under ESSA, the law requires the director of the Institute of Education Sciences to complete an educational study on the impact of access to digital learning resources outside of the classroom. The study should include:

  • An analysis of student habits related to digital learning resources outside of the classroom, including the location and types of devices and technologies that students use for educational purposes;
  • An identification of the barriers students face in accessing digital learning resources outside of the classroom;
  • A description of the challenges students who lack home Internet access face, including challenges related to student participation and engagement in the classroom; and homework completion;
  • An analysis of how the barriers and challenges such students face impact the instructional practice of educators; and
  • A description of the ways in which state educational agencies, local educational agencies, schools, and other entities, including partnerships of such entities, have developed effective means to address the barriers and challenges students face in accessing digital learning resources outside of the classroom.

According to the department, the 60-day public comment period will open in April of 2018 and remain open until late June 2018. The Center for Digital Education (CDE) will keep you updated when the opportunity for public comment is open.

Title IV

Finally, the department updated the group on Title IV. President Trump has proposed to eliminate Title IV funding, but as mentioned before, the president’s budget is merely a suggestion for Congress to act upon. In fact, Title IV might see an increase from Congress in the next budget. The increase would likely be due to the fact that Title IV houses the safe and healthy schools funds. However, this would mean an increase for funds for technology as well.

The department is also planning a technical assistance center for Title IV to open in September. As states and districts begin to plan how to use Title IV dollars, the technical assistance center will be a helpful resource for how funds can or cannot be used. For example, if a district is interested in how to develop a consortium, and effectively manage the consortium, the department will stand ready with advice and resources to help. Very similarly to the Privacy Technical Assistance Center, or PTAC.

There is much work being done at the Department of Education, and their updates show district leaders they are doing the best they can to ensure districts have all needed resources to be successful when it comes to technology in our schools.

Susan Gentz Contributing Writer
Susan is passionate about transforming education for every student and works on content for the Center for Digital Education. She loves policy, running and biking, and is a proud Iowa native.