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Preserve I-TECH to close homework gap, prepare students for success

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By Paige Johnson, Intel's K-12 Education Strategist

Republished from The Hill, October 9, 2015


As the House and Senate engage in conference discussions to reconcile reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Intel applauds Congress for moving forward with this legislation. We thank Sens. Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Murray (D-Wash.) and Senate HELP Committee members for crafting a bipartisan K-12 educational bill that the Senate passed by an overwhelming majority this past summer. This legislative victory is particularly sweet for America’s classroom educators as it prioritizes technology professional development amid the veritable sea change in education policy that this bill’s passage represents.

For Intel, one major conference priority is the preservation of the new I-TECH program. One of the most forward looking innovations in the Senate bill, I-TECH is a standalone educational technology program that would ensure that America’s educators gain access to the very best technology training, providing them with the knowledge and skills they need to integrate technology into their daily curricula. This provision is the brainchild of Sens. Baldwin (D-Wis.), Murray, Hatch (R-Utah) and King (I-Maine), a tri-partisan group that well understands the importance of preparing teachers to teach in cutting-edge schools. A full 50 percent of all I-TECH funding flowing to districts would underwrite professional development.

The bill would also address the issues of low-income and rural student access to adequate Internet connections at home. This so-called “Homework Gap” makes it difficult, if not impossible, for tens of thousands of students to complete digital learning assignments, perform online research, apply to colleges, seek employment, and gain access to government services. I-TECH would bridge the Homework Gap in two ways: 1) by mandating a study to determine the extent to which K-12 students are under-connected or unconnected to the Internet at home; and 2) by allowing districts to use I-TECH funds to purchase hotspots and deploy other technologies that facilitate home connectivity.
Intel understands the importance of programs like I-TECH from firsthand experience: over the past decade, we’ve helped millions of schools and educators around the world use technology to enable more interactive, student-centered learning and improve student outcomes. In 2014, Intel worked with Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS) to develop and implement Students & Teachers Accessing Tomorrow (S.T.A.T.), a new initiative designed to equip every student with access to digital learning, regardless of socioeconomic factors. S.T.A.T. provided 17 BCPS pilot schools with individual digital learning devices for students and professional development to help teachers create blended, personalized learning environments – resulting in higher engagement and a decrease in total office referrals and suspensions.

This program builds upon the long history of the Intel® Teach program, which instructs K–12 teachers on integrating technology effectively into classrooms and promoting student-centered approaches, engaging students in learning and preparing them with critical skills for success in our digital world. With more than 15 million teachers trained in 70 countries, Intel Teach is the largest, most successful program of its kind.

Transforming education to meet the needs of today’s learners requires ongoing support for teachers as they implement new teaching practices. Studies show that the quality of a teacher is the single largest influence on student achievement, and that the success of any educational change depends on a teacher’s effectiveness in redesigning curricula, instruction, and assessments. I-TECH provides funding to districts for this very purpose – for teachers’ professional development.

As the Senate and House conference discussions continue, we call on Congress to make every effort to preserve I-TECH. Our nation’s teachers and students are counting on you.

Johnson is Intel’s K-12 education strategist and sits on the Board of Directors of the NEA Foundation and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).