Wise cites two Texas school districts—Klein Independent and Floydada Independent—as exemplars for how to use education technology to improve student outcomes.
Washington, DC – This afternoon, Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, testified before the Texas Joint Interim Committee to Study the Public School Finance System on how digital learning and the effective use of technology can help drive better learning for all students in Texas, regardless of their geography or socioeconomic status. Gov. Wise emphasized the necessity of incorporating digital learning into the new funding formula the committee is studying.
“Our schools have failed to keep up with innovation that technology helps provide,” Wise testified. “It is time we stop asking students to ‘power down’ when they enter the classroom and instead ‘power up’ so that technology can join with quality teaching to improve student outcomes and drive the nation’s economy today and in the future.”
In his testimony, Wise recognized Texas’s leadership in techno use to narrow achievement gaps. Specifically, he praised the Klein Independent School District’s innovative use of laptops and professional development for their teachers in improving the educational opportunities and quality of learning for its students. (For video demonstrating Klein’s use of technology in the classroom, visit http://youtu.be/ZNmbYAlPEcs.) In addition, Wise cited the Floydada Independent School District’s Technology Immersion Pilot program, through which its middle and high schools have experienced double-digit gains in all core subject areas.
Wise acknowledged that Texas, like all states, still has a long way to go in ensuring its students are college and career ready but emphasized that the reward is tremendous: If Texas’s high school graduation rate were to increase to 90 percent, the state would reap huge economic benefits, including as much as $1.1 billion in increased annual earnings,” Wise noted. “The message is clear: the best economic stimulus is a high school diploma.”
Increasing the high school graduation rate for the Class of 2011 would provide Texas with other economic benefits as well, including as much as $1.6 billion in increased home sales, $97 million in additional car sales, and 5,000 new jobs.
While acknowledging the funding challenges that Texas faces because of declining local, state, and federal revenues and tight budgets, Wise said that the state is being challenged to raise student performance for more and more children. “I had to balance budgets as a governor and it was never easy,” Wise stated. “It is going to require innovative thinking to allocate resources in a way that makes state dollars more productive and effective.
Wise recommended that the Joint Interim Committee consider how digital learning fits into Texas’s broader education reform landscape. Incorporating digital learning includes making sure every student has access to an internet-enabled device, but he warned, “Don’t just lay a netbook on top of a textbook.” Ensuring teachers are trained and have opportunities for professional development is a necessary component for success.
Wise also discussed what he calls the three “Ts”—teachers, technology, and time—that are essential to developing a comprehensive digital learning strategy and rethinking education. “Teachers have a critical role to play as the nation continues to progress from yesterday’s learning environments to those that are more tailored, flexible, robust, and challenging. At the same time, technology can be a ‘force-multiplier’ for teachers, permitting them to reach more students than ever before,” Wise said. “Only when the three Ts are used together can schools be expected to accelerate improvement.”
Wise cited several examples of schools and districts from around the country that are already using technology to improve student outcomes. In North Carolina, for example, Mooresville Graded School District implemented a digital conversion initiative in 2007 that shifted from print to digital content material and made an internet-accessible device available to every student and teacher. In just five years, Mooresville’s graduation rate increased 25 percentage points and now ranks third in the state, despite the fact that the district has one of the lowest per-pupil expenditures in the state, ranking it ninety-ninth out of 115 districts.
Read Gov. Wise’s prepared testimony at
http://www.all4ed.org/files/Texas Interim Committee Testimony.pdf.
The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC-based national policy and advocacy organization that works to improve national and federal policy so that all students can achieve at high academic levels and graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship in the twenty-first century. For more information about the Alliance for Excellent Education, please visit http://www.all4ed.org.