While a budget shortfall forced the Texas legislature to eliminate two of the state’s three major funding sources for educational technology for the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years, state education officials are cautiously optimistic that this year’s biennial session will bring an increase in funding.
The Texas technology allotment—which survived the cuts two years agoand has remained districts’ only steady source of funding for educational technology since 1992—pays schools $30 per student per year. For the 2004-05 school year, that total allocation was $117.8 million, compared with $119.7 million for the previous school year.
Overall, state officials say, districts are spending the largest portion of the aid on professional development and equipment; expenditures for Internet access, technology support, and electronic textbooks are also significant.
Lone Star State officials are excited about their technology-immersion pilot project, which schools started participating in during the fall of 2004. The state made available $14.5 million in federal funds from the No Child Left Behind Act to 25 schools in 23 districts through competitive grants, according to Anita G. Givens, the director of educational technology for the Texas Education Agency. The immersion schools are primarily middle schools, but include one whole district and one team of schools at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.
Technology immersion, Givens explains, bundles various elements of technology: a wireless mobile computing device for every student and teacher, ongoing professional development, software, online instructional resources in four core academic subjects (English, language arts, math, social studies), online assessments, and on-demand technical support.
A companion evaluation project will collect data from 22 immersion middle schools and 22 “control” middle schools for at least three years. The project will also study the impact the technology does or does not have on factors such as parent involvement in children’s learning, student engagement, the quality and rigor of student learning, and the ability of teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms.