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Raising the Bar: How Education Innovation Can Improve Student Achievement

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February 14, 2013 02:15 pm


This morning at 10:00 a.m. (ET), the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education will hold a hearing titled, “Raising the Bar: How Education Innovation Can Improve Student Achievement.” The hearing will feature testimony from Jim Shelton, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education, as well as John Bailey, Executive Director of Digital Learning Now, Preston Smith, CEO & President of Rocketship Education in Redwood City, CA, and Holly Sagues, Chief Policy Officer of the Florida Virtual School. Video of the hearing is available at

The hearing is an important one because I believe technology offers a tremendous opportunity to enhance student achievement and prepare today’s young people for the workforce of the future. Educators face a confluence of factors – employer demands for highly educated workers, decreased investments in education, and the need for highly effective teachers – that can be addressed through the effective use of digital learning. To do so, States, school districts and schools must employ strategies that integrate time, teaching and technology. The federal government can play an important role in assuring that the students who have traditionally been underserved by the nation’s education system benefit from the promise of technology.

What should that federal role look like?

Traditionally, the federal role in education has focused on ensuring equity in educational opportunity. This focus on equity is critical, as the achievement gap persists, and the population of traditionally underserved students rapidly increases.

During the 1989-90 school year, 29 percent of the nation’s K-12 students were students of color/Native students. Twenty years later, the percentage of the K-12 student population comprised of students of color/Native students rose to 45 percent. In twenty-two states, 40 percent or more of the K-12 population are students of color/Native students. In twelve of these states, students of color/Native students are the majority.

The nation’s changing demographics, combined with the increasing demand for effective education, make the federal role all the more important. Congress should support equity and excellence in education technology by passing the Transforming Education Through Technology Act (H.R. 521), legislation designed to ensure that states, school districts, and schools have the technological infrastructure and professional development needed to support college- and career-readiness for all students. Technology/innovation must not simply be a tool used by the affluent to enhance their success; the federal government has the responsibility and opportunity to help ensure that all students benefit from the effective use of technology.

While I am not testifying at today’s hearing, I did submit written testimony that provides more detail on the three challenges facing education leaders, the three components of an effective digital strategy (teaching, time, and technology), and two examples–Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina and Floydada Independent School District in Texas–of how digital learning strategies are being effectively utilized to support students and teachers. You can access my written testimony at

Bob Wise is president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia.


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