It may have been overshadowed by the announcement today by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and President Barack Obama about the Race to the Top grants, but the administration also released new guidance for the funds targeted in the economic-stimulus package for the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology program.
In the past several months, ed-tech organizations have been keeping a close eye out for this non-regulatory guidance to find out when the $650 million in stimulus funding will be available, how it can be spent, and what kinds of reporting requirements are tied to it.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed earlier this year called for the boost to the Enhancing Education Through Technology, or EETT, funds that are scheduled for release to states on July 27. The program has had regular annual funding of about $267 million, but stands to suffer significant cuts Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal 2010. Once states get the stimulus money, they are responsible for distributing it to schools or eligible consortia, although up to 5 percent of the money can be held for state-level ed-tech purposes. States must award at least half of the remaining money—or all of it, if they choose—to schools through competitive grants. They can also distribute 50 percent or less of the funds through a formula.
The emphasis here is obviously on competitive grants. In fact, the guidance says, “the Department strongly encourages states to award all of the funds competitively. Larger, competitive grants potentially will have a greater impact than smaller formula grants awarded across more districts.”
Another area I know many organizations have been watching closely are the reporting and transparency requirements associated with the funds. All the funds distributed through EETT will need to be tracked and reported to the public quarterly. States are required to report how each entity that received these funds have performed on the following four measures: the percentage of districts receiving ed-tech funds that have effectively and fully integrated technology, the percentage of classrooms with Internet access in high- and low-poverty schools, the percentage of teachers who meet their state technology standards, and the percentage of students who meet state technology standards by the end of the eighth grade.
The four guiding principles for distributing the funds, says the document, are to “spend funds quickly to save and create jobs; improve student achievement through school improvement and reform; ensure transparency, reporting, and accountability; and invest one-time funds from the economic stimulus program thoughtfully to minimize the “funding cliff.’ ”
Overall, the guidance emphasizes systemic integration of technology into the classroom with a focus on ongoing, embedded professional-development for teachers and adequate tech support.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.