High-tech hubs downgraded in digital report card

High-tech hubs downgraded in digital report card

(District of Columbia) Quick – which states are home to the nation’s biggest technology centers? California? Massachusetts? Connecticut? Illinois?

According to a new report card on digital learning preparedness, they all received a failing grade based on measures for how well states are giving students access to robust digital learning environments that are served by modern, well-functioning infrastructure.

The overall winners, at least as far as the Foundation for Excellence in Education is concerned, were Utah and Florida, which both got grades of A-minus while Minnesota got the only B-plus.

Three others earned a grade of B – Virginia, Nevada and Georgia; six more received a B-minus – Indiana, South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, West Virginia and Washington.

Meanwhile, half of the states received either a D or an F – including some famous as incubators of innovation.

Architects of the study suggested the fact that lawmakers and education policy makers can have success in one state but not another illustrates the social, fiscal and political challenges digital learning systems pose to the nation’s public schools.

“It’s encouraging to see the number of states that are working toward breaking down policy barriers that prevent students from being the center of our education system,” said Jeb Bush, former Florida Governor and co-founder of the education foundation.

“As this Digital Learning Report Card highlights, more states are allowing students to customize their education in a way that best meets their learning style, and empowers them with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in college and the workplace,” Bush said in a statement.

Donors supporting the digital report survey include some of the nation’s biggest education activists, including foundations operated by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Eli Broad and the Walton family.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that the evaluation screens used in the digital learning survey rewarded states that are moving aggressively and embracing creative solutions.

Utah was singled out, at least in part, because of passage of legislation creating the “Student Achievement Backpack,” a web-portal that gives parents a single source to access a variety of school records for their children, a function that also moves with the students from year to year and school to school.

Lawmakers in Utah also passed legislation last year that improved funding for STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), established new “competency-based education programs, and that promoted financial literacy among K-12 students.

Florida, long a national leader in digital learning, adopted measures last year that expanded the number and kinds of online courses available to K-12 students, enhanced the funding formula for virtual schools, and removed barriers to schools for purchasing digital and electronic instructional materials.

Some states more commonly linked to high-tech suffered in the grading not just because they were less active on the digital learning front last year but also because they had not promoted more opportunities to students.

California, for instance, received failing grades on indicators of student access to online and digital programs. The home of Silicon Valley also failed in measures for funding digital learning. And as headquarters for the likes of Apple, Google and Facebook – the state also failed when it came to scores for providing high-speed internet to schools and other infrastructure needs.

Other highlights from the report:

  • Texas passed legislation that enhances its virtual school network to bring more course options to students in grades 6-12.
  • Arkansas and Nevada made huge gains on the Report Card in 2013. Arkansas emphasized increasing student eligibility for digital learning and expanding the definition of instructional material to include technology-based material, while Nevada focused on removing access restrictions to distance education.
  • Louisiana implemented an innovative course choice program offering students a range of online, blended and face-to-face options from a diverse group of providers including institutions of higher education, non-profits, school districts and several private providers.
  • Numerous states, including Iowa, New Hampshire and Texas, also passed legislation advancing competency-based models of learning in which students can earn credit based on mastery instead of seat-time.

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