May 15, 2018

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Advocacy Round Up: DACA, Rescission, and Net Neutrality

Time for a document dump! AASA advocacy has engaged in a handful of activity--outside of Sasha's continued efforts with Impact Aid and Leslie's work on the Farm Bill. This blog post is a quick bit on those items. 

 

  •  DACA: AASA joined a handful of other organizations in an amicus brief for a DACA-related case in the Ninth Circuit. The case was heard on Tuesday of this week.
  • Net Neutrality: AASA sent a letter to the full US Senate in advance of their vote to force the FCC to reverse their ending of network neutrality. The vote is viewed as largely symbolic. While Ds have the votes they need to pass it. the bill will not get any traction on the House side. 
  • Rescission: AASA joined forces with AESA and ASBO to send a letter to both the House and Senate appropriations committees, opposing President Trump's proposed funding rescission.

 

April 5, 2018

(ESEA, E-RATE, ED TECH) Permanent link

Homework Gap: ESSA Report Details Trends and Opportunities

9 months after it was due, we finally have the ESSA-required report on the homework gap, which tasked the Institute of Education Sciences to look at the educational impact of access to digital learning resources (DLR) outside of the classroom. The specific asks of the report included: 

 

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

AASA has followed the issue of the homework gap for one simple reason: as schools, teachers and classrooms are increasingly reliant on internet access to support teaching and learning, the lack of access at home represents a very real obstacle for students. They can’t do their homework not because they’re lazy or don’t understand it, but because they don’t have access. This report was required, in part, to examine the extent of uneven access to internet and connected devices at home. Top line take aways:

 

  • Nearly two-thirds (61%) of children use the internet at home, meaning over one-third (39%) do not. This is a significant share, and interesting given that 91% of students have access to connectivity at home, meaning that they live in a house with a device they don’t have access to. The big take away, however, is that 1/3 of students don’t use the internet.
  • Between 2010 and 2015, the share of students with access to high-speed internet at home fell from 89 to 78 percent. 
  • The top two reasons why children (ages 3 to 18) lacked access to the internet at home were listed as cost (too expensive) or that their family did not need it/was not interested in having access.
  • The report showed higher average achievement scores for students who used computers at home and/or had internet access at home that those did not. An important caveat: this analysis did not systematically consider the myriad socioeconomic background characteristics that are known to impact student achievement. 

 

Want to read more ? Check out the executive summary or the full report

February 20, 2018

(ESEA, IDEA, PERKINS, RURAL EDUCATION, E-RATE, SCHOOL NUTRITION, WELL-BEING, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED TECH, SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Policy Recap from NCE

It was great to see so many of you in Nashville for NCE last week - we hope you learned a lot (and had some fun)! Here is a roundup of what our team was involved with at the conference:

 

 

November 10, 2017(1)

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA Files Comments in Response to Proposed Changes to E-Rate

Last month, AASA issued a call to action to superintendents, urging them to respond to a set of proposed changes to the E-Rate program by the FCC. The FCC is considering a policy change which would deeply cut--if not eliminate--it support for Category 2 (internal connections) within the E-Rate program. Adopted as part of the 2014 modernization, this is a premature policy consider that would undermine the intent of the 2014 vote and threaten the ability of schools and libraries to access and afford high speed connectivity in their classrooms. To that end, AASA provided a template response, and more than 400 educators from schools and libraries across the country. 

You can read AASA's formal comments here.

October 24, 2017

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Speak Up! 2017 is Open: Tell Your Technology Story

The Speak Up 2017 surveys are now open! Each year the Speak Up research project for digital learning asks K-12 students, parents and educators about the role of technology for learning in and out of school. If you have not yet registered your school/district, there is still plenty of time! Surveys will close on January 19, 2018.

The Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning, a national initiative of Project Tomorrow, is both a national research project and a free service to schools and districts everywhere. Since fall 2003, Speak Up has helped education leaders include the voices of their stakeholders in annual and long-term planning. More than 5 million participants have made Speak Up the largest collection of authentic, unfiltered stakeholder input on education, technology, schools of the future, science and math instruction, professional development and career exploration. National-level reports inform policymakers at all levels.

Educators from more than 30,000 schools have used Speak Up data to create and implement their vision for the next generation of learning. You can too! Learn more about how to register as the primary contact at http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/registration.html today to participate in Speak Up.

To see what our top Speak Up top schools and districts have to say about why they participate in Speak Up, and learn how they utilized their school/district’s data, visit the Speak Up in Action page here.

Surveys take less than 20 minutes to complete and are completely anonymous. Join more than 500,000 people from more than 10,000 schools to be sure your voice is heard this year! 

As part of Speak Up, we (AASA) are offering two opportunities to win a complimentary registration to our 2018 National Education Conference. Check out Speak Up America and Speak Up Appreciation Week for more on these offers.

Surveys are open through January 19, 2018, and schools and districts can still sign up to get promotional materials and their free data: http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/MainContactInformation.html

 

October 10, 2017

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

The Advocate, October 2017

By Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director, policy & advocacy, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

Federal Policy Triple Threat: CHIP, E-Rate and SALT

Children’s Health Insurance Program: The CHIP Program expired on September 30. If Congress does not act quickly to extend funding for CHIP then school districts will lose funding for the critical health services provided to low-income children that ensure they are healthy enough to learn. AASA supports five -year extension of the program.  CHIP provides essential funding to support states to cover uninsured children. Any delay or a failure to immediately extend funding for CHIP will jeopardize coverage for children who are eligible for school-based health-related services leading to immediate and lasting harmful effects for America’s most vulnerable citizens. A school’s primary responsibility is to provide students with a high-quality education. However, children cannot learn to their fullest potential with unmet health needs. The health services these children receive that ensure they are healthy enough to learn. School districts depend on CHIP to finance many of these services and have already committed to the staff and contractors they require to provide mandated services for this school year. The failure to continue funding CHIP would merely shift the financial burden of providing services to the schools and the state and local taxpayers who fund them. The full call to action is on the blog.

State and Local Tax Deduction: The president’s tax reform plan includes a proposal to eliminate the state and local tax deduction (SALT-D). AASA is opposed to the elimination of SALT-D, and it is our single biggest item of engagement in the overall tax reform package. We believe any comprehensive tax reform legislation must preserve this deduction. As one of the six original deductions allowed under the original tax code, SALT-D has a long history and is a critical support for investments in infrastructure, public safety, homeownership and, specific to our work, our nation’s public schools. SALT-D prevents double taxation for local residents and reduced the pressure tax payers feel/face when it comes to paying state and local taxes, which represent the lion’s share of public education funding. Elimination of this deduction would increase tax rates for certain tax payers, reduce disposable income, limit ability and support for local taxes, and damage local, state and national economies. The full call to action is on the blog.

E-Rate: The FCC is considering a policy change which would deeply cut--if not eliminate--it support for Category 2 (internal connections) within the E-Rate program. Adopted as part of the 2014 modernization, this is a premature policy consider that would undermine the intent of the 2014 vote and threaten the ability of schools and libraries to access and afford high speed connectivity in their classrooms. We need to create a groundswell of feedback from schools and libraries; please take the time to file comments. The full call to action—including a template response—is on the blog.

We’ve called 2017 the Year of Superintendent Advocacy and encouraged superintendents to commit to making contact with the members of their delegation once per month. For the month of October, we ask you to consider to take one advocacy step each week. One week, reach out to your delegation about CHIP. The next week, file comments on ERate and why it matters. To complete your hat-trick of October advocacy, let your delegation know you oppose any tax plan that changes/eliminates the SALT deduction.

As always, reach out to Sasha, Leslie or Noelle for additional information, including contact information for your hill staff.


 

October 9, 2017(2)

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

E-Rate Call to Action: FCC Considering Cut to Category 2 Funding

Quick Summary: The FCC is considering a policy change which would deeply cut--if not eliminate--it support for Category 2 (internal connections) within the E-Rate program. Adopted as part of the 2014 modernization, this is a premature policy consider that would undermine the intent of the 2014 vote and threaten the ability of schools and libraries to access and afford high speed connectivity in their classrooms. We need to create a groundswell of feedback from schools and libraries; please take the time to file comments.

Background: E-Rate provides $3.9 billion in discounts annually to ensure that all public libraries and K-12 public and private schools gain access to broadband connectivity and robust internal Wi-Fi. As of December 31, 2015, schools and libraries have received over $31 billion in E-Rate funds. In fact, E-Rate is the third largest stream of federal resources in the country, after Title I and IDEA. Check out E-Rate funding in your state! The promise of the E-Rate program is straightforward: to assure that all Americans, regardless of income or geography, can participate in and benefit from new information technologies, including distance learning, online assessment, web-based homework, enriched curriculum, increased communication between parents, students and their educators, and increased access to government services and information. The E-Rate program provides discounts to public and private schools, public libraries and consortia of those entities on Internet access and internal networking. (E-Rate’s previous support for voice services terminates after Program Year 2018.) E-Rate discounts are provided through the Federal Communications Commission by assessing telecommunication carriers for a total of up to $3.9 billion dollars annually. This methodology follows a long-established Universal Service Fund model, used to ensure affordable access to telephone services for residents in all areas of the nation since 1934. (Source: EdLiNC)

Policy Context: While Congress is not poised to make any changes to E-Rate, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is, and we want to make sure Congress knows what E-Rate, how schools and libraries use it, why the program matters, that it is working and is important, and what would happen to schools if the program were reduced or cut. Congress needs to understand that the changes of the 2014 modernization are just starting to meaningfully reach schools and libraries, and that any substantive changes would be premature and poor policy. 

Specific to what the FCC, under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai, are considering: When the FCC modernized the E-Rate program in 2014, it focused funding on broadband Internet service (Category 1) and Wi-Fi and internal connections (Category 2). For Category 2, E-Rate provides schools with a formula distribution of $150 per pupil, which is supposed to last schools for 5 years. Since the modernized E-Rate with a higher spending cap rolled out in 2015, schools have made active use of their Category 2 allotments. Evidence suggests that, as of today, 94% of schools meet the FCC’s interim broadband goal of 100 Mbps/1000 students, a considerable jump from 2013 when that number stood at only 30%.

Recently, the FCC’s Wireline Bureau launched a Public Notice seeking comment on Category 2 budgets. Specifically, this public notice asks how schools have used their allotments and whether schools made Wi-Fi purchases without E-Rate support. The public notice also asks why some schools have not used their allotments yet and whether they planned to do so before the end of the 5-year formula cycle. This last question may arise from data gathered by Funds for Learning that shows that “more than a third (37%) of participating sites have not touched their Category Two (“C2”) budgets, and another quarter (23%) have used less than half of their budgets. Only a relatively small percentage of sites (18%) have maxed out their C2 discounts.” In total, $2.35 billion in Category 2 funds remain unclaimed and unspent by schools.

What’s at stake? There is a growing concern that the FCC is not asking these questions merely for data-gathering purposes but for another end in entirely. The Connect America Fund (CAF), a universal service program (like E-Rate is) that provides subsidies for rural telecommunications carriers, remains underfunded and could use a funding increase. The apparent surplus in Category 2 dollars may look tempting to the FCC and CAF supporters, leading to calls to transfer unused E-Rate dollars to CAF. The data collected in this rulemaking may stand as evidence that schools are not using or do not need some or all of their Category 2 funds, providing the FCC pretext to transfer E-Rate dollars to CAF. Once those dollars are transferred out of E-Rate, they may be gone forever and stand as a precedent for lower overall funding for E-Rate for years to come.

Call to Action: The FCC has asked for the public to submit initial Comments on this Public Notice by October 23rd and Reply Comments by November 7th. Schools, districts, educators and parents should file comments in the next month that tell the FCC: Hands-off E-Rate Category 2 funds. A strong response from the education community might prevent the FCC from taking action to transfer E-Rate funds.

How to File Comments with the FCC

  • COMMENTS ARE DUE October 23
  • Draft your response comments. You can create your own comments or work from AASA’s template. Format your response as a Word/PDF document (include district letter head!).
  • Go to https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings 
  • For the Proceeding Number, enter the following proceeding numbers: 13-184
  • Complete the rest of the information on the form.
  • Upload your comments at the bottom of the form.

If you are pressed for time or need help submitting the comments, I can submit them on your behalf. Please email me (nellerson at aasa.org) your final comments no later than Friday October 20, with the subject line ‘Please file E-Rate comments.’

 

September 5, 2017(2)

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED TECH, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

AASA Partners with CoSN for 2017 Infrastructure Survey

It's back to school, which means a LOT of things. Including time for the annual AASA/CoSN infrastructure survey. For the past several years, we have collaborated with CoSN on this survey as a way to assess the current state of broadband and technology infrastructure in U.S. school systems. The survey gathered insights from K-12 school administrators and technology directors nationwide, to assess key areas of concern for school districts, including affordability, network speed and capacity, reliability and competition, digital equity, security and cloud-based services. 

The survey has been distributed. We switched formats this year, and each district is receiving it's own, distinct URL. It was deployed to the main contact in the CoSN database, and we are writing this blog post to put this on your radar and to encourage you to check with your tech/IT team to ensure your district response is captured. 

Dear Education Leader: 

AASA, in partnership with education researchers at MDR and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), recently launched the fifth annual Infrastructure Survey, designed to gather data from school districts across the country on E-rate, Broadband, and Internal Network Infrastructure. Your voice is important in the continued process of reforming the E-rate and other programs to improve schools’ network infrastructure for digital learning. 

This year, CoSN has partnered with Forecast5 Analytics to provide premium results in an online workbook of visual data analytics that will allow you to compare to districts across the country on IT infrastructure strategies.

Last week, we sent a custom survey link to your technology director. We ask that you follow up with your Technology Department to ensure that your school district is represented. The deadline is Friday, September 25th. 

Districts that participate in this survey will receive a report giving a high level overview of the survey results. You will also have an opportunity to request detailed survey results from Forecast5 once you have completed the survey.

Thank you for your help! 

If you have any questions about the survey or the subsequent report and analytics, please email survey@forecast5analytics.com. 

If you have any questions about the survey or the subsequent report and analytics, please email survey@forecast5analytics.com.

July 19, 2017

(RURAL EDUCATION, E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Advocacy in Action: Week of July 17

Fresh off of last week's successful AASA/ASBO legislative advocacy conference (all conference materials and the evaluation can be accessed here) we hit the ground running for another busy week on Capitol Hill. And it is only Wednesday!

ESSA: On Tuesday, AASA President Gail Pletnick testified before the House Education and the Workforce Committee. You can access her testimony and an archive of the hearing here.

Appropriations: Today, the House appropriations committee considers the FY18 LHHS appropriations bill, which would provide funding for schools in the 2018-19 school year. AASA sent a letter expressing our concern with the proposal to the subcommittee last week and a similar letter to the full committee. Here’s a quick overview of what is in the bill, and we've linked to a comparison chart.   

  • Provides $66 billion for USED, down $2.4 billion from the current budget.
  • The House bill does NOT fund the Trump request for $1 billion for a portability/open enrollment provision in Title I, Part E, nor does it provide funding for a proposed $250 million voucher program.
  • IDEA Part B receives a $200 m increase
  • Title I is level funded
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers is cut by $200 m
  • Charter Grants increase $28 m
  • ESSA Title IV is funded at $500 m
FCC/E-Rate: Today, the Senate will confirm Ajit Pai, Jessica Rosenworcel, and Ben Carr as Commissioners in the FCC. Ajit Pai is a carry over from the Obama administration and will serve as Chairman; Jessica Rosenworcel returns to the FCC after her term expired, and Ben Carr joins the FCC as a first-time commissioner. Pai and Carr are joined by Michael O’Rielly as the Republican members, and Rosenworcel returns to join Mignon Clyburn as the Democrats on the commission.  You'll recall that Commissioner Rosenworcel was a tireless champion of E-Rate, schools, connectivity and the homework gap in her previous term and AASA is beyond thrilled to have the chance to work with her again. Read our letter of support.
Webinars: In the last month, AASA held two webinars related to advocacy/policy, including one just this week. Both are linked below: 
  • Get the Lead Out: Testing for and Removing Lead in School Water Systems (Archive)
  • Financial Transparency Requirement in ESSA (Archive)

 

March 3, 2017

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

March Superintendent Advocacy Challenge: E-Rate!

Greetings from AASA’s 2017 National Conference on Education. We are nearing the end of conference and the Advocacy department is celebrating with the March edition of our ‘2017 Superintendent Advocacy Challenge’. As we mentioned in a previous post—and are talking about all week here in New Orleans—we are calling 2017 the year of superintendent advocacy and are challenging our members to commit to monthly contact with their Congressional delegation. Each month, we will pick a relevant policy topic and provide a bit of background, a bit of policy context, and a quick set of talking points. This is all designed to take the administration out of advocacy and to support our members to get right to the actual work of advocating: talking about policy and what it will mean in your district.

We kicked off the 2017 Superintendent Advocacy Challenge in February with a simple call to action (find it here!), encouraging you to make contact with each office. This month, we focus on E-Rate!

As we go through the year, if you would like talking points and background on a topic other than what we feature, JUST ASK! We are more than happy to provide that information, to ensure you are able to relay the information more relevant for you. We are also happy to share the name and email address of the education staffer for your members of Congress; just ask!

Background: E-Rate provides $3.9 billion in discounts annually to ensure that all public libraries and K-12 public and private schools gain access to broadband connectivity and robust internal Wi-Fi. As of December 31, 2015, schools and libraries have received over $31 billion in E-Rate funds. The promise of the E-Rate program is straightforward: to assure that all Americans, regardless of income or geography, can participate in and benefit from new information technologies, including distance learning, online assessment, web-based homework, enriched curriculum, increased communication between parents, students and their educators, and increased access to government services and information. The E-Rate program provides discounts to public and private schools, public libraries and consortia of those entities on Internet access and internal networking. (E-Rate’s previous support for voice services terminates after Program Year 2018.) E-Rate discounts are provided through the Federal Communications Commission by assessing telecommunication carriers for a total of up to $3.9 billion dollars annually. This methodology follows a long-established Universal Service Fund model, used to ensure affordable access to telephone services for residents in all areas of the nation since 1934. (Source: EdLiNC

Policy Context: While Congress is not poised to make any changes to E-Rate, we want to ensure that they know what E-Rate, how schools and libraries use it, why the program matters, that it is working and is important, and what would happen to schools if the program were reduced or cut. The goal of this month’s call to action is an awareness campaign, to put this issue on Congress’ radar as a program to know and a program to support!

Talking Points:

 

  • Though Congress has no role in determining the changes to E-Rate, they do engage in conversations with the FCC Commissioners. As such, make sure your Senators and Representatives know the critical role that E-Rate dollars play in school connectivity and how important those dollars will be as schools prepare for the online assessments.
  • Did you know? E-Rate is the third largest stream of federal resources in the country, after Title I and IDEA. Check out E-Rate funding in your state!
  • E-Rate played a critical role is the rapid and significant expansion of connectivity in schools, and the 2014 modernization was a much needed update to ensure more schools and libraries are connected to broadband.
  • Talk about how your district uses its E-Rate funding, how it supports your district’s learning and teaching, and what it would mean if E-Rate were cut.

 

February 14, 2017

(ESEA, RURAL EDUCATION, E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, This is a Catch-All Education Update, JUST FOR YOU!

Secretary's Statement and Letter to Chiefs re: ESSA Implementation: Last week, Secretary DeVos issued a letter to all Chief State School Officers relating to Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) implementation in light of the postponement of the accountability regulations and the Congressional Review Act.  Read the letter.

AASA National Conference on Education: We will be in New Orleans March 2-4. Sign up today! Specific to advocacy, here are the policy sessions where you can find Sasha, Leslie, Deanna and I:

 

  • Special Education 2.0: Breaking Taboos to Build a New Education Law (3/2, 9 am)
  • AASA Advocacy meet & Greet (3/2, 9 am)
  • State Policy 2017: What to Expect, What to Plan For (3/2, 2 pm)
  • Federal Education Policy in a Post-ESSA Era (3/3, 10:45 am)
  • The Third Branch: Supreme Court and Schools (3/3, 12:30 pm)
  • Schools in Transition: Gender Diversity and Best Practices (3/3, 3:45 pm)
  • Federal Relations Luncheon: Public School Choice vs. Private School Vouchers(3/2, 12:30 pm)

Of Funding: There is no real update. The current continuing resolution (for FY17, the dollars that will be in your schools for the 17-18 school year) runs through April 28. Staff are split among the various options for how Congress will wrap the FY17 discussion, which will in part be shaped by a time crunch for floor time, as Congress works through the Congressional Review Act, confirmations, normal order AND starts FY18 negotiations.

Rural Education Caucus: Your member of Congress may not be on an education committee, but there is always a way to be involved. Is your Congressional district rural? Does your state have rural? Then an easy ask is for your members of Congress to join their respective chambers' Rural Education Caucus. When you make the outreach, ask them to contact Rep. Sam Graves' office on the House side or Sen Tester on the Senate side to sign up!

 

February 7, 2017

(ESEA, E-RATE, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Signs Statement Expressing Deep Concern Over Recent FCC Actions

Earlier today, AASA joined 16 other national organizations in a joint statement in response to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's recent decisions affecting the Universal Service Lifeline and E-Rate programs:

You can read the full statement here. It is also excerpted below:

The Education and Libraries Networks Coalition (EdLiNC) is extremely disappointed by FCC Chairman Pai's unilateral decision to revoke the designation of several telecommunications companies as Lifeline broadband providers. This decision will significantly hamper efforts to help close the homework gap for thousands of low-income and rural students, preventing them from gaining access to online resources, to college and employment applications, and to their teachers and peers. We cannot understand the need to block the roll-out of the Lifeline broadband program now and urge the Chairman to reconsider this action.

EdLiNC is also deeply concerned by Chairman Pai's decision to rescind the recently published E-Rate progress report, which does nothing more than demonstrate the progress that the program has made in delivering robust Wi-Fi to classrooms and libraries and providing fiber broadband connection opportunities to their buildings. E-Rate has done more to connect America's public and private schools and public libraries in the past 20 years than any other state or federal program and EdLiNC remains steadfast in our commitment to ensuring the strength and viability of this program. We urge the Chairman to reconsider this action. EdLiNC looks forward to working with the FCC and Chairman Pai to ensure that the E-Rate program helps meet the needs of our schools and libraries and protects the continued distribution of E-Rate discounts in an equitable way. 

Groups signing the statement include:

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Library Association
  • Association of School Business Officials, International
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Consortium for School Networking
  • International Society for Technology in Education
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Independent Schools
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Catholic Educational Association
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National School Boards Association
  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

November 2, 2016

(ESEA, E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED TECH, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

School Technology Makes Progress, Yet Challenges Remain—AASA & CoSN’s 2016 Infrastructure Survey

School systems in the United States are making progress in increasing broadband connectivity and Wi-Fi in classrooms. However, significant hurdles remain before all students are able to experience a digitally-enabled learning environment. These are the findings revealed today in CoSN’s 2016 Annual E-rate and Infrastructure Survey, a report conducted in partnership with AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and MDR.

Gathering insights from K-12 school administrators and technology directors nationwide, the report addresses key areas of concern for school districts, including affordability, network speed and capacity, reliability and competition, digital equity, security and cloud-based services. 

“The good news is districts are making real progress in supporting modern technology infrastructure. However, it remains clear that more work and investment are needed over the long run to address the digital equity challenge of today and provide robust broadband connectivity for all students in and outside of school,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. 

Progress: School systems have progressed toward meeting the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) short-term goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students. Today 68 percent of the school districts fully meet the minimum Internet bandwidth recommendations in every one of their schools (it climbs to 80 percent of districts having three-fourths of their schools at this immediate connectivity goal). The 68 percent fully achieving the goal today is up from just 19 percent in 2013. 

The survey also shows increased reliability in Wi-Fi, which is now largely ubiquitous in high schools – only 6 percent lack Wi-Fi. In 2016, 81 percent of survey respondents indicated that they were very confident or somewhat confident in their Wi-Fi, a significant improvement over previous years.

Remaining Challenges: Despite this progress, school leaders also reported that affordability remains the biggest barrier to establishing strong connectivity in schools and that digital equity is a major priority. 

School districts are also largely not meeting the FCC’s long-term goal of 1 Gbps per 1,000 students. Only 15 percent of school districts report having 100 percent of schools reaching this goal, and that is consistent across urban, rural and suburban districts. School system leaders are divided about whether the long-term goal is too ambitious or about right.

School leaders project significant Internet bandwidth growth (100 to 500-plus percent increase) over the next 18 months, especially in urban (37 percent) and suburban (31 percent) districts. School leaders also project that nearly two-thirds of all students will use two or more devices at school within the next three years—an increase from 21 percent of students today. 

“The 2016 E-Rate and Infrastructure Survey demonstrates that we are making progress in bringing broadband infrastructure to our schools and in meeting our short-term bandwidth connectivity goals. This is welcome news,” said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “At the same time, however, the survey shows that challenges remain. In particular, we must continue to raise awareness and come up with strategies to overcome the ‘Homework Gap,’ which is the cruelest part of our new digital divide. Thanks to CoSN, AASA, and MDR for this year’s survey, which continues to shine a spotlight on the state of infrastructure necessary to support digital learning across the country.”

“The findings of this year’s infrastructure report highlight the important work of the ongoing effort to expand school connectivity and the opportunity to use this expanded connectivity in schools to support student learning as schools transition to implementation of the reauthorized Every Student Succeeds Act. The findings of this survey—both where progress has been made and where there is continued room for growth—are in strong parallel to the underlying improvements of ESSA and the responsibility state and local education agencies will play in leveraging expanded decision-making authority into meaningful learning opportunities for their students. Also, for addressing equitable educational opportunities, including those tied directly to connectivity, including equitable access both in and outside of school,” said Daniel A. Domenech, who serves as Executive Director for AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and a member of the Universal Service Administrative Company Board of Directors.

Further details as well as additional challenges and priorities identified by school system leaders follow:  
  • Affordability
    • Recurring Expenses a High Hurdle. This year, 57 percent of school leaders identified the cost of ongoing recurring expenses as the biggest barrier to robust connectivity—up from 46 percent last year. 
    • Monthly Costs Going Down. The cost for monthly Internet connection showed significant improvement, with nearly one-half of respondents reporting low monthly costs (less than $5 per Mbps). This is a steady improvement from 36 percent in 2015 and 27 percent in 2014.
  • Lack of Competition
    • Lack of Competition Magnified Rurally. More than half (54 percent) of rural district leaders reported that only one provider sells Internet to their school system, and 40 percent of rural respondents reported receiving one or fewer qualified proposals for broadband services in 2016. This marks no progress from last year. 
  • Digital Equity
    • Digital Equity Atop the List. Among the school leaders surveyed, 42 percent ranked addressing digital equity / lack of broadband access outside of school as a “very high priority.” 
    • Strategies Needed. Nearly two-thirds of school system leaders, however, revealed that they do not have any strategies for providing off-campus connectivity to students. This is only a slight improvement over previous years.
  • Security
    • Small Investment in Security. Nearly half of school system leaders spend less than 4 percent of their entire technology budget on security. 
    • Phishing Top Security Concern. The largest security concern for school leaders is phishing (with 19 percent citing it as a high risk), with denial of service and ransomware rated equally as threats (9 percent).  
  • Cloud-Based Services
    • Server Migration Increasing. Approximately 40 percent of school districts are considering migrating their server infrastructure to the cloud. 
    • Learning Management Systems Tops Cloud Deployment. Nearly 60 percent of school system leaders stated that learning management systems make up the largest cloud deployment, followed by student information systems. 

Conducted in August 2016, the 2016 Annual E-rate and Infrastructure Survey collected 567 responses from district administrators and technology leaders serving urban, suburban and rural school system in 48 states and the District of Columbia. 

“MDR is excited to once again partner with an organization committed to identifying and solving the challenges associated with technology and education,” said Kristina James, MDR Director of Marketing. “Current MDR research shows that 75 percent of districts rated wireless networks as their top technology priority, the sixth year in a row that wireless networks have topped their priority list, reflecting the shift to digital and districts’ interest in being able to personalize learning for all students. This year’s CoSN survey illustrates the same desire, while highlighting the barriers districts need to overcome, to continue making progress towards this shift.”

To read the full report, please visit: www.cosn.org/infrastructure2016  

October 19, 2016(1)

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Domenech Nominated to USAC, AASA Files IRS Letter

Two quick and unrelated items:  

 

  • Earlier this month, AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech was nominated to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) Board of Directors as the representative for schools that are eligible to receive discounts, continuing a positions he had held since 2012. USAC is the entity that oversees the E-Rate program. Dan's letter of support was signed by 14 national organizations in addition to AASA:
    • American Federation of Teachers 
    • Association of Educational Service Agencies 
    • Association of School Business Officials, International
    • American Library Association 
    • Consortium for School Networking
    • International Society for Technology in Education
    • National Association of Elementary School Principals
    • National Association of Independent Schools
    • National Association of Secondary School Principals
    • National Association of State Boards of Education
    • National Catholic Educational Association
    • National Education Association
    • National PTA
    • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
    • National Rural Education Association
    • National School Boards Association
  • AASA joined with the Association of Educational Services Agencies (AESA) to send a joint letter to the IRS in response to the proposed regulations under Code section 457, in particular the provisions for bona fide sick and vacation leave plans.

 

 

September 14, 2016

(RURAL EDUCATION, E-RATE, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Real World Design Challenge (RWDC) Kick Off for Rural Students!

The RWDC focuses on STEM education for rural students. For the last five years students have learned precision agriculture. Precision agriculture is the biggest area of innovation and opens the door to many careers for rural students. On September 22, 2016 we will be flying an unmanned Aerial vehicle (UAV) designed by students. You will see the plane take off, fly and take images of crops to collect data to support precision agriculture. There will also be interviews with the students who designed the plane. We hope you and your students will join us for the event! Please save the date! Follow the event using the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNcqvy6o-PlObcoiiThyfPQ

The RWDC supports Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in high schools through an annual competition. The goal of the RWDC is to motivate and prepare students for the STEM workforce and teach innovation. The RWDC is Real World in the following ways: Students (1) solve Real Problems; (2) use Real Tools; (3) play Real Roles; and (4) make Real Contributions. Through their participation in RWDC each year students are challenged to optimize the design of a plane. Students are designing an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) with the mission of precision agriculture. 

If you are unable to attend you can see a replay of the event at following link: 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNcqvy6o-PlObcoiiThyfPQ

September 13, 2016

(E-RATE, ED TECH) Permanent link

In Celebration of ConnectED Day and Future Ready

Today we're celebrating ConnectED Day with our friends at Future Ready and we decided the best way to celebrate is with blog posts! These aren't just any ordinary blog posts, though—they're blog posts written by superintendents in districts from coast to coast, who are leading their students to college, career and life readiness, by taking advantage of ed tech, digital learning strategies and personalized learning methods and more.

You probably remember in June, 2013, when President Obama launched the ConnectED initiative and set a goal to connect 99 percent of America's students to the Internet through high-speed wireless and broadband Internet within five years. Today, we are still on track to meet that goal thanks to efforts made by federal, state and local institutions and especially the progress made on E-rate. With the Future Ready initiative as a model, educators are truly in a place to transform education as we know it, and that goes beyond Chromebooks and iPads.

Start your Future Ready journey today by taking the Future Ready pledge. And, even if you've already taken the pledge, read about the initiatives that other superintendents are championing in their districts and get inspired!

You can find our Future Ready blog series at http://www.aasa.org/future-ready-blogs.aspx. 

August 17, 2016

(E-RATE, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

AASA and CoSN Partner for 4th Annual Infrastructure Survey

AASA is pleased to announce, in coordination with our friends at the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), the fourth annual Infrastructure Survey, designed to gather data from school districts across the country on E-rate, Broadband, and Internal Network Infrastructure. Your voice is important in the continued process of reforming the E-rate and other programs to improve schools’ network infrastructure for digital learning. We need to hear from you, the experts—what are your future bandwidth needs? How is the E-rate working for you?

Our goal is to provide crucial information to the FCC, the Department of Education, Congress, and others on the current state of ed tech and E-rate reform. This year, we are providing valuable information on home access to broadband as the FCC is reforming its Lifeline Program. Your input is more important than ever.

Take the Infrastructure Survey today. In about 15 minutes, you can directly impact what we tell the FCC! If a colleague is better suited to respond, please pass this message along (one response per district, please). Should you have any questions or difficulties, please contact K12Infrastructure@gmail.com.

June 24, 2016

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED TECH, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Reversing the Bandwidth Crunch: Helping School Systems to Accelerate Connectivity with Fiber

This guest blog post comes from our friends at CoSN and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Like never before, large and small schools are taking advantage of technology tools to blend and personalize the learning experience. This encouraging growth in demand, however, is increasing their connectivity needs—and schools are feeling a bandwidth crunch.

How big of a crunch? 

According to a recent CoSN survey, 68 percent of district technology officers believe their school systems do not have the bandwidth to meet their district’s connectivity demands in the next 18 months. K-12 broadband demands, meanwhile, are growing at an annual rate of more than 50 percent

Fortunately, K-12 schools last year received a big (and modern!) boost from the federal E-Rate program. Nearly $4 billion in federal funding is now available through the program to better connect schools and libraries—funding that will directly support the expenses for receiving high-quality connectivity. 

To give school system leaders the guidance to leverage the E-Rate program’s expanded offerings and accelerate their high-quality fiber connectivity, CoSN (the Consortium for School Networking) and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University have produced a new toolkit. 

Maximizing K-12 Fiber Connectivity Through E-Rate: An Overview includes three parts for school leaders:

 

  • Part One, which provides an overview of the E-Rate program and the types of fiber eligible through the program. Through case studies, it also shares how three school systems managed their fiber connectivity challenges.
  • Part Two, which describes important considerations for schools to assess their options. It also includes an additional case study that details how a school district’s E-Rate reimbursement for a fiber “self-build” could support wider fiber build-out.
  • Part Three, which issues a call to action for school systems to begin taking measurable steps toward deciding on and making effective use of today’s fiber connectivity options.

We encourage you to learn more about this modern resource for modern connectivity at: CoSN.org/SEND.

 

CoSN is the premier professional association for school system technology leaders. To learn more, visit: cosn.org.

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is dedicated to exploring, understanding, and shaping the development of the digitally-networked environment. To learn more, visit: cyber.law.harvard.edu.

 

 

 

April 19, 2016

(E-RATE) Permanent link

Message from Dan Domenech: Good News: The E-Rate Application Deadline Has Been Extended

AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech shared the following message with the entire AASA membership via email. We cross post it here for your reference.

Dear Colleague: 

I write today to relay critical information related to the FY16 E-Rate application window. 

We have heard from school superintendents across the country about difficulties their districts are having navigating and completing the revamped application for the E-Rate program. In response, AASA joined 17 other national organizations—as part of the broader EdLiNC coalition—in sending a letter to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), requesting an extension of the E-Rate application. 

The letter reads as follows: "EdLiNC's members, E-rate beneficiaries in schools and public libraries across the country, have shared they are having difficulties specifically with navigating and successfully completing the revamped application portal. Thus, we ask that the application deadline be extended. With the E-rate application deadline of April 29, 2016 fast approaching, additional time to complete the application process would greatly benefit potential beneficiaries." Read the full text of the letter. 

On Friday, USAC announced that it was, indeed, extending the application deadline. You can read the full statement here, and here are some highlights: 

 

  • USAC is extending the window for all applicants by four weeks, and the new closing date is May 26, 2016. 
  • USAC continues to roll out additional updates to the online portal and application. You can read an explanation of the additional changes here
  • When the extended window closes on May 26, USAC will open a second filing window for consortia and libraries, closing on July 21, 2016. 
  • Neither the extension nor the second window are expected to delay application review or funding decisions. 
  • USAC analysis shows there should be sufficient funding for all plausible demand scenarios for this application year. Filers should not worry about losing funds as a result of the second window. 
  • Please direct any application-related inquiries to the Client Services Bureau at 1-888-203-8100. 

 

Please let us know if you have any questions. Direct any inquiries to Noelle Ellerson, AASA associate executive director, policy & advocacy at nellerson@aasa.org. 

 

Thank you. 

 

April 14, 2016

(E-RATE) Permanent link

AASA Joins 17 Organizations in Request for E-Rate Application Extension

AASA joined 17 other national organizations in a joint letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting an extension to the E-Rate application filing deadline.

"EdLiNC has long championed the E-rate and supported the recent modernization and overhaul of the program, recognizing the positive impact on our members’ ability to provide high-speed broadband connectivity. EdLiNC recognizes such significant changes to the program require applicants to also navigate and respond to changes to both the application and the application process. EdLiNC’s members, E-rate beneficiaries in schools and public libraries across the country, have shared they are having difficulties specifically with navigating and successfully completing the revamped application portal. Thus, we ask that the application deadline be extended. With the E-rate application deadline of April 29, 2016 fast approaching, additional time to complete the application process would greatly benefit potential beneficiaries." Read the full letter.

Groups signing the letter:

 

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Library Association
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Consortium for School Networking
  • International Society for Technology in Education
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Independent Schools
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Catholic Educational Association
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
  • National School Boards Association
  • State Educational Technology Directors Association
  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

March 23, 2016

(E-RATE) Permanent link

AASA Joins 17 National Organizations on Letter to FCC Responding to Changes in Lifeline Program

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to consider changes that would modernize it's Lifeline program. (Quick background: Lifeline is a sister program to E-Rate, one of the four programs funded through Universal Services Fund. Lifeline helps provide phone connectivity to low-income people, and the proposed changes include allowing the program to provide broadband home access. AASA supports this effort, as it provides an opportunity to address the homework gap, and ensure that more students have access to internet connectivity at home.)

AASA advocates for the E-Rate program in close coordination with EdLiNC, the Education and Library Networks Coalition. As part of EdLiNC, AASA supports the proposal to include broadband as an eligible and supported Lifeline service because we believe it an important step in assisting students to gain access from their own homes to online homework and other digital resources necessary for their education. AASA joined 17 other national organizations in a letter to the FCC outlining our support and identifying areas within the proposal for further improvement. 

You can read the full letter here.

Joining AASA on the letter:  

  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Library Association
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Consortium for School Networking
  • nternational Society for Technology in Education
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Independent Schools
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Catholic Educational Association 
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA 
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
  • National School Boards Association
  • State Educational Technology Directors Association
  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

February 12, 2016

(E-RATE) Permanent link

E-Rate Funding Year 2016 Application Filing Window Opens Feb 3


This guest post comes from AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech. Dan serves on the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), which oversees the four programs of the Universal Service Fund, including E-Rate.
Tomorrow, February 3, marks the beginning of the 2016 application filing window for the E-Rate program. The filing window will be open through April 29, meaning school districts will have 87 days (nearly two weeks longer than normal!) to submit an E-Rate application.

2014 was a big year for the E-Rate program, bringing both a program modernization and an increase in the funding cap. The updated program came with a new application process, and USAC is currently in the middle of migrating the E-Rate information technology system and forms to a new platform.

Last year (2015 application window), applicants expressed frustration with the new application forms and portals. While USAC has tried to remedy these shortcomings, there may still be some hangups. We encourage you to give us feedback as you work through this year's application to submit your E-Rate forms. Tell us what worked and what didn't; let us know what went according to plan and where there is room for improvement. 

Share these comments with us by filling out this form. You can also submit your feedback to USAC via EPCfeedback@usac.org. 

You can read USAC's announcement on the 2016 application window here.

September 29, 2015

(E-RATE) Permanent link

USAC Letter to E-Rate Community

Earlier today, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC, the entity overseeing E-Rate) released a letter to the E-Rate comm with an update on the pace of E-Rate funding and the new E-Rate portal. For FY2015, USAC is ahead of any previous funding year, but there is still work to do. USAC continues to see interest in the portal and remains focused on improving its functionality and being customer-friendly.

In the opening of the letter, Mel Blackwell (Vice President of the Schools and Libraries Program) writes:

"This is an exciting and important time of year for the E-rate Program as we move toward completion of all FY2015 applications, continue to implement the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) and mark the beginning of the 2016 funding year with our in-person training efforts. These coming months are particularly important given the changes brought by the modernization orders and the implementation of EPC. We fully understand that change brings both opportunity and challenge to all of us in different ways. I want to assure you that we will do everything we can to mitigate the challenges and deliver on the FCC’s goal of a faster, simpler, and more efficient E-rate Program. Transparency is a critical component of these enhancements and of managing through the change. Thus, I would like to discuss with you a couple of areas that are currently of particular interest --- the pace of FY2015 funding decisions and the status and performance of EPC."

You can read the full letter here.

August 26, 2015

(E-RATE) Permanent link

AASA Joins 17 Other Nat'l Organizations to Comment on Lifeline Program and 'Homework Gap'

AASA, in coordination with 17 other national organizations, submitted joint comments in response to proposed changes to the Lifeline program, weighing in on the role of access to connectivity in homes, what it means for students, and the opportunity to update the Lifeline program to potentially address this gap. 

"EdLiNC believes that providing broadband access to low-income families is a major step in the right direction to help close the educational equity gap that exists for students who lack access to Internet at home. Without broadband access at home, too many students lack the ability to complete digital homework assignments, perform academic or employment research, apply to college or for summer jobs, and gain access to basic government services. Without broadband access at home, parents may find it difficult to send and receive electronic communications with their children’s teachers or school leaders, access school websites, engage in school activities, and ensure the safety of their children online. Moreover, without broadband access at home, the tremendous work that the Commission did last year in modernizing the E-Rate program, thereby ensuring all k-12 schools and libraries enjoy robust WiFi and broadband connectivity, will be undermined."  Read the full comments.

The coordinating organizations--known collectively as EdLiNC--include:

 

  • AASA: The School Superintendents Association 
  • American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA)
  • American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
  • American Library Association (ALA)
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies (AESA)
  • Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO)
  • Consortium for School Networking (CoSN)
  • International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)
  • National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS)
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals  
  • National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA)
  • National Education Association (NEA)
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Association (NREA)
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition (NREAC)
  • National School Boards Association (NSBA)
  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)