TCEA 2019 Legislative Priorities
We have seen pockets of innovation in classrooms, schools, and districts with the use of technology since the 1990’s. Although there is near universal agreement that technology can enable a more personalized and equitable education, there has been no systemic plan to reform our educational system using the tools that have transformed almost every industry and economic enterprise in the world.
A variety of factors have prevented a widespread shift to an instructional model that leverages technology to customize the content, timing, location, and delivery of learning to best meet each individual child’s needs. TCEA has conducted multiple surveys of key stakeholders, looked at national and Texas data on student and teacher technology use, and reviewed strategies used by other states. After studying this data, the TCEA Board of Directors has identified the following strategies to overcome barriers to a wide-scale adoption of technology. Overcoming these barriers is necessary to prepare and equip our students for the jobs of the future. In addition to the following strategies, TCEA will work to protect the gains made in the 85th Texas Legislature.
I. Leadership and Planning
TCEA has long understood that leadership at all levels is vital to enacting a change of this magnitude. It requires a well-thought-out state plan that includes all of these key components: student outcomes, professional learning, curriculum and instructional materials, digital devices, broadband, and policies that enable a district to allow students to move at their own pace.
- Create a Digital Learning Task Force that will create a plan to implement the Long-Range Plan for Technology. The task force plan should:
- Improve student outcomes through the use of digital teaching and learning technologies that support the use of high-quality instructional materials;
- Provide high-quality professional learning for educators to improve student outcomes through the use of digital teaching and learning technology;
- Determine the requirements of a technology infrastructure to deliver high-speed broadband to all Texas public schools that is both affordable and scalable;
- Inventory the state public education system’s current technology resources to be used as a baseline to evaluate their ability to reach the goals of the LRPT;
- Create a Digital Teaching and Learning Grant program to assist districts in the implementation of the plan;
Establish an ongoing evaluation process that is overseen by TEA that includes an inventory of technology resources at least every two years.
- The state should develop appropriate funds for the Digital Teaching and Learning Grant program so that grants can be awarded to all districts who have written a proposal that enables the district to reach the goals in the state’s LRPT.
- The Digital Teaching and Learning Grant should require participation by key stakeholders from each district in the writing and implementation of the grant. TEA should require these stakeholders to attend annual bootcamps that foster collaboration between district leaders and districts who have similar instructional and technology goals.
II. Professional Learning
It is essential to provide teachers with a supportive environment that enables them to adapt their teaching strategies to take advantage of empowering technologies. In the most recent SpeakUp Survey, 34 percent of Texas students in grades 6-8 and 43 percent of students in grades 9-12 said they felt that teachers limit their use of technology in school. However, 82 percent of Texas teachers indicated that the effective implementation of instructional technology was important to their students’ success.1 This disconnect reveals that teachers recognize the benefits of technology use, but may not know how and when to use the different technologies available. Teachers need ongoing, job-embedded professional learning opportunities that empower them to use appropriate technology tools to meet various educational needs.
- Require or incentivize annual professional development for all educators on the use of technology tools to improve instruction.
- Require educator preparation programs that train aspiring principals and other instructional leaders to ensure that these individuals have the necessary technology and planning skills to lead and transform a school or district into a digital learning environment.
- Require TEA to create a Blended Learning Academy similar to the math and reading academies that would be available to teachers statewide for professional growth and development.
- Require teachers to annually assess their level of digital proficiency and develop an individual professional development plan to make self-identified improvements.
- Formalize the process whereby teachers who receive micro-credentials as they acquire new skills to meet the demands of the digital classroom are recognized by the State.
III. Technology and Instructional Materials
The Technology and Instructional Materials Allotment (TIMA) was created by the 82nd(1) Legislature2 as a dual-purpose allotment that would fund the purchase of instructional materials and technology. However, since the inception of the TIMA, only 13 percent of the allotment has been used to purchase technology.3 This has made it difficult for districts to initiate and sustain broad-based technology implementations.
- The state should continue to create open educational resources (OER) that are free for districts to use.
- The state should require districts to track the district’s expenditures on technology/digital content and tools.
- The State Board of Education should consider the cost of all instructional materials and technology requirements when determining the disbursement of the Permanent School Fund to the Available School Fund.
- The State Board of Education should not issue proclamations for instructional materials in which the total projected cost of the materials in the proclamations within each biennium exceed 75 percent of the total Technology and Instructional Materials Allotment.
IV. Technology Proficiency
TCEA has partnered with Learning.com since 2013 to provide districts with a free assessment of their student’s technology proficiency based on the 8th grade Technology Application TEKS. Although students are required to master these TEKS, the data indicates that the percent of students who are proficient for each of the six skill categories has decreased in the last five years from an average of 62 percent to only 52 percent in 2018.4 The Technology Applications TEKS were last updated in 2011. That means that only 52 percent of Texas students are proficient on seven-year-old technology standards which are focused on the use of technology. These TEKS do not include the creation or coding of software applications, which are currently the skills most sought after. The state needs to provide all students with a foundation of computer science knowledge and skills so they can problem solve using the power of computational thinking and become both users and creators of computing technology.
- Increase the number of students taking a course that exposes them to computer science or computer programming.
- Move the 9-12 Technology Applications courses into the CTE Curriculum. The State Board of Education and the State Board of Educator Certification should be given the authority to review and align the courses, eliminate duplicate standards, and ensure the level of rigor of the TEKS and certification matches the purpose for each course.
- Update the K-8 Technology Applications TEKS so that computational thinking and coding skills are included.
- Require the SBOE to update the Technology Applications TEKS at the same time they update the CTE TEKS.
- Require districts to annually report to TEA the percentage of their 8th grade students who have mastered the 6-8th Technology Applications TEKS.
- Provide additional funding for teacher professional development to equip existing certified teachers with the latest information for this rapidly evolving field and assist teachers to acquire the certification.
Students in districts without adequate broadband capacity or who have limited access to digital devices and tools are at a distinct disadvantage. Not only do they have fewer options in terms of access to content; they are unable to develop the technical skills associated with navigating the internet and creating knowledge online. While students with reliable broadband and access to rich, interactive content are developing digital footprints that prove their knowledge and skills and increase their academic credibility, those without connectivity are left behind. This inequity could have serious, long-term implications for the economic health of communities and the overall productivity of our state’s workforce.
- Designate a state entity that will:
- Determine what barriers exist to provide all Texas schools and districts with affordable and scalable broadband access both within the school and district and in students’ homes and administer a plan to address these barriers.
- Perform an engineering study to determine the technology infrastructure needs of the public education system to implement a digital teaching and learning program, including the infrastructure needed to ensure that all Texas school districts have affordable, scalable broadband.
- Provide biennial reports to the legislature on the status of the affordable and scalable broadband access for Texas schools and districts.
- Provide additional funding for the state E-rate match and for wi-fi access within school classrooms.
- Maximize the Technology Lending Grants in order to assist with the home access divide. TEA should consider funding strategies that will provide long-term solutions to the homework gap.
VI. Personalized Learning
Personalized learning is intended to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students. Technology is the enabler of this type of educational model. It allows students to guide their inquiry as they decide how they will interact with the content, including the time and location. This type of learning requires a major shift in the delivery of instruction and involves teacher professional learning, a robust technical infrastructure, the selection of appropriate content, and strong leaders who know how to manage this type of change. Many of the strategies listed above support the goal of personalized learning; however, the following are specific to this category.
- Replace the outdated time-based system (Carnegie unit) of awarding credits and funding with one that is based on a student’s competency.
- Provide additional funding for blended learning initiatives such as the Math Innovation Zone.
- Allow students to take more than three TxVSN courses.
- Allow students to enroll in a TxVSN course if the student’s school does not have a similar course.
- Allow school districts to create their own full-time or part-time TxVSN school, if only within their own district boundaries.