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Critical Challenges Infographic

Nov 15, 2012


Is your district considering the use of digital learning in its schools?
If so, stop, read on, and make a plan that addresses your district’s specific challenges and learning goals …

America’s education system faces enormous challenges that need to be addressed urgently and systemically. Greater emphasis is now being placed on ensuring that every student, including low-income students and students of color, achieve their potential, but major challenges remain. Far too many public schools have not changed quickly enough to meet the growing needs of students, parents, and employers. As states have rightly moved to requiring that all students graduate from high school ready for college and a career, school district leaders must take on this challenge and make smart, far-reaching decisions that will affect the next decade of education.

Decisions That Shape the Next Decade

The next two years will see unprecedented developments in education as the country seeks something fundamentally different than it ever has from K–12 education in order to prepare all students for success in college and a career in the twenty-first-century global economy. District leaders will need to make serious and crucial decisions that will shape education policy for the next decade.

Effective educational technology strategies that link the three Ts—teaching, technology, and use of time—can enhance and accelerate systemic planning efforts focused at whole-school reform and improved student outcomes. And although some districts have made great progress, much more needs to be done to achieve the higher standards and to ensure that every child graduates ready for college and a career.


Digital Learning Is Essential for College and Career Readiness

As has been commonly observed over the past decade, technology has not revolutionized education the way it has other fields and industries. But revolutionizing education may finally be under way, fueled by the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI). At the heart of this ambitious initiative is the conviction that all students, regardless of race, income status, or zip code, deserve an education that prepares them for success in today’s job market and postsecondary institutions. Through the CCSSI, states worked together to design grade-level expectations in English language arts and math to ensure that all students would be college and career ready by the time they graduated from high school.

Forty-six states have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and forty-four states are working as part of two consortia to design new assessment systems aligned to the CCSS. To enhance the quality of the new assessments and the timeliness of their results, both consortia are developing assessments that will be administered by computer which will revolutionize test taking in many states. But the radical opportunity that technology affords the CCSS implementation is in its ability to support profound changes to teaching and learning.

On the assessment front, technology will enable a real-time feedback loop that informs instruction. And as teachers work to understand the changes in classroom instruction required to help all students meet the demands of these rigorous standards, they are looking to a range of open educational resources powered by technology, including model curriculum units, professional learning modules, exemplary lesson videos, and other material being created and made available electronically by teachers, schools, districts, states, nonprofit organizations, and companies. Such sharing is possible because of the combined nature of the CCSS and the availability of technology to make instructional materials readily available systemwide.

In addition, when provided with the necessary bandwidth, hardware, and software, students and teachers have unprecedented access to high-quality digital content and the ability for students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills through publishing and digital sharing of work. Last but not least, technology has a critical role to play in providing data about student and school performance to school leaders, teachers, parents, students, and community members, in order to guide educational and policy decisions.

Technology can be a powerful medium for transformation, as witnessed in its ability to enable political protest and change around the world. The spark that technology brings to education is needed to support teaching and learning for the twenty-first century and to finally deliver on the promise of educational access and equity for all students.


Serious Challenges Facing District Leaders

District leaders will have to make serious and crucial decisions that will shape education for the next decade. Although some districts have made great progress, much more needs to be done to achieve the higher standards and ensure that each child graduates ready for college and a career.

1. There Are Increasing Needs for Higher Student Achievement

Too many students are not being prepared for college and a career. As a result, they are not competitive in a rapidly changing world, and the nation’s schools are not changing fast enough to keep up. Some sobering statistics include the following:

  • High school graduation rates in the U.S. remain low—around 72 percent overall. For most students. For minority students, the rate is closer to 50 percent.
  • Of those who graduate from high school, only one in four is actually ready for college-level work.
  • Half of all students entering a community college will need remediation; 20 percent will need help when they enter a four-year institution.
  • Students who begin college in remedial classes are far less likely to graduate.
  • As the nation’s economy recovers, an increasing number of jobs require some kind of training after high school.
  • Fewer and fewer jobs are available to those who drop out of high school or get no training after high school. These students will have lower incomes and are more likely to be unemployed or live in poverty.


2. Shrinking Budgets

States and districts are in the unenviable position of having to meet much higher standards that require improvements in teaching and learning for all students while budgets are simultaneously declining. This dilemma is how to push district leaders to rethink how resources are allocated in support of teachers. For example, streamlining expenses, offering online professional development, elevating media specialists as instructional leaders, and analyzing budget expenses line by line can help districts reallocate resources. Meanwhile, school leaders are constantly forced to make hard choices and budget cuts. Challenges include the following:

  • Property tax revenues remain low.
  • There is likely to be no new federal funding, as Congress focuses on making cuts across the board, including education.
  • In Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, when states had to make midyear general fund expenditure cuts, even the usually untouchable K–12 education funding went under the knife. Eighteen of the twenty-three states that made midyear cuts reduced funding for K–12 education.
  • In FY 2012, forty-two of fifty states were dealing with budget shortfalls; since 2008, thirty-four have had to make cuts to education funding.


3. The Future of Teaching

Teachers are a school’s most critical resource. Even though research continues to show that effective teaching is the most important school-related factor in student achievement, access to effective teaching remains widely uneven and inequitably distributed. The teaching profession faces multiple challenges while serving at the front line of improving outcomes for students.

  • There continues to be high turnover and frequent layoffs in the field of teaching: nearly 300,000 teacher jobs have been lost since 2008.
  • Today’s typical teacher has just one to two years of experience, compared to fifteen years in 1987.
  • Teachers often find that they cannot differentiate or meet the needs of all of their students.
  • Many schools are forced to staff classes with teachers who do not have deep expertise in their subject areas, especially in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses.

Preparing all students to succeed in today’s increasingly global economy and complex world requires a shift from a teacher-centric culture to learner-centered instruction. Teachers are transitioning to facilitators of learning and educational designers. The Culture Shift  report examines the characteristics of learner-centered instruction and the support that educators and schools will require to make such an approach work. It argues that a learner-centered approach will not succeed without a cultural shift throughout the education system that includes maximizing the potential of digital learning to meet students’ needs.


4. Growing Technology Needs of Students and Society

Systemic and effective use of technology and digital learning can connect middle and high school students to better teaching and learning experiences while also addressing three major challenges facing the nation’s education system: access to good teaching, tight budgets, and boosting student achievement. But simply slapping a netbook on top of a textbook will not lead to improvements. Effective educational technology strategies must link the “three Ts”—teaching, technology, and use of time—with overall whole-school reform strategies and proven pedagogical practices to accelerate the pace of improvement and ensure that all students benefit from the opportunity that digital learning offers.


Tomorrow’s essential needs include core academics and deeper learning.

Students need learning opportunities that are more hands on, experiential, project based, and aligned with student interest. These types of learning opportunities offer students the chance to produce content, analyze information, and build deeper knowledge of complex topics. Integral to this solution is the technology that can make learning more challenging and motivating. Teachers need tools that allow them to reach each child, witness “aha” moments, and help those who are struggling. Teachers need advanced resources to provide rich, relevant learning opportunities that meet each student’s needs and ensure that all students have the opportunity to drive their own learning.

Effective digital media combined with powerful teaching, rich content, and engaged students will take learning in the United States to a much higher level and provide all students with experiences that allow them to graduate prepared for college and a career. The conditions in which this vision of digital learning thrives are essential to meet the moral and economic imperative to change the way teachers teach and students learn in the United States. All children should graduate from high school ready for college and a career, possessing the deeper learning skills they need in order to compete in today’s rapidly changing economy. Yet too many students are still not developing the tools they need to succeed in modern life.

Deeper learning is simply what highly effective educators have always provided: the delivery of rich core content to students in innovative ways that allow them to learn and then apply what they have learned. Rigorous core content is at the heart of the learning process; true deeper learning is developing competencies that enable graduating high school students to be college and career ready and then make maximum use of their knowledge in life and work.

The basic concepts of deeper learning are not new to education; indeed, they are routine educational practice for many accomplished individual teachers and educators and some high-performing schools. These successful practices are now being confirmed by increasing bodies of evidence, underscoring the necessity for deeper learning as an integral part of the education process.

Deeper learning prepares students to

  • know and master core academic content;
  • think critically and solve complex problems;
  • work collaboratively;
  • communicate effectively; and
  • be self directed and able to incorporate feedback.


The Three Ts: Teaching, Technology, and Time

The use of technology and digital learning, when implemented effectively, provides opportunities to create the conditions for whole-school reform and effective instruction. This use of technology is based on a vision that includes teaching, technology, and time. Districts that fail to address these decisions will find themselves with outdated curriculum and instruction and will see continued failure to progress. However, many districts are stepping up to develop comprehensive strategies for digital learning strategies and are now poised to stand as examples for the path ahead.


  • Pedagogy before technology
  • Teachers as educational designers
  • Increased professional learning for teachers
  • Focus on best instruction to meet student needs


  • Flipped learning strategies for more and better instructional time
  • Make the most of in-class time
  • Increase opportunities for project-based learning or teacher-student discussions
  • Competency-based learning approaches—a shift away from seat time and toward demonstrations of mastery


  • Access to the right devices
  • Ensuring broadband access
  • Helping close digital divide
  • Rich content opens doors to world
  • Self-paced, meets student needs
  • Interactive, engaging tools that give students opportunities to collaborate, create, produce


What Is Digital Learning?

Digital learning is personal and flexible.

A personalized, learner-centered environment uses technology to collect and organize data to help establish learning goals and criteria for success, assess student progress constantly and informally, and provide students and teachers with a comprehensive system of academic and developmental supports. Policy and practice must offer access to technology tools and educational resources that empower and elevate school leaders and teachers to apply their pedagogical knowledge, creativity, and data analysis skills to meet the needs of individual students. Blended learning environments in K–12 public schools provide support for teachers to help all students advance at their own pace based on competency and mastery.


Digital learning is led by teachers with significant support.

Technology and digital learning can increase professional learning opportunities by expanding access to high-quality, ongoing, job-embedded resources to improve student success. Professional learning communities, peer-to-peer lesson sharing, and better use of data and formative assessment, combined with less emphasis on “sit and get” professional development sessions, eliminate the confines of geography and time. These ever-increasing resources offer teachers vast new opportunities to collaborate, learn, share, and produce best practices with colleagues in school buildings across the country.


Digital learning is collaborative and aligned to a common vision.

Administrators, teachers, students, and parents must all have a shared commitment to personalized and collaborative learning. Educators must be empowered by their leadership to use innovative approaches for learner-centered instruction. Permission to fail and regroup must be pervasive in this new learning environment. Technology encourages and supports this more agile approach to teaching by supporting a problem-solving culture with transparent student data that is used in a collegial, collaborative environment to improve student outcomes. Data should be used as a carrot, not a stick.


Digital learning provides flexible and high-quality resources.

Districts and states need to rethink how academic content is developed and obtained for their teachers and students. By designing a thorough review process for quality, states and districts should be able to employ a variety of resources aligned to rigorous standards that address differing learning styles and levels of knowledge and that support deep, project-based learning approaches.

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Through a more flexible, consistent, and concentrated approach to academic content delivery, states could combine open educational resources, state-created content, and curriculum with commercial offerings that more adequately address the ever-changing needs of a district. This kind of approach offers teachers more robust and adaptive tools to customize the instruction for groups of students or on a student-to-student basis to ensure relevance and deep understanding of complex issues and topics. Providing multiple sources of high-quality academic content offers students much greater opportunities to reflect on their own work, think critically, and engage frequently to enable deeper understanding of complex topics.


Digital learning is data driven, transparent, and ongoing.

Good instruction can be driven by a well-designed formative assessment program with teachers using real-time response devices that capture when students master concepts, might benefit from more instruction, or need remediation. This student data is then stored so that it may be analyzed to determine progress in multiple classrooms and subjects over time. A formative assessment program that uses technology offers teachers with more robust, timely data that will allow them to encourage students along pathways best suited for their learning objectives. Policy, practice, and attitudes within the school must support a collaborative, positive, and continuous improvement notion of school reform in which each child progresses adequately toward the goal of being ready for college and a career.

District-Level Systemic Planning Initiative

After brainstorming with district leaders from varying districts—large, small, rural, and urban—the Alliance for Excellent Education (“the Alliance”) will be offering an urgent national call to action that provides district leaders with collegial support, team of experts, self-assessment and vast resources to help increase the effective use of technology in education. The Alliance will soon announce a new initiative called Project 24, a district-level effort to provide school districts with useful tools that will assist them in reaching college- and career-ready standards through systemic planning for the effective use of technology and digital learning over the next twenty-four months. The groundwork on Project 24 is currently being done, and the official call to action will begin on Digital Learning Day 2013.


National Partners

The Alliance has secured enthusiastic support from national membership organizations including the Council of Chief State School Officers, American Association of School Administrators, Education Commission of the States, Rural School and Community Trust, National Association of State Boards of Education, International Society for Technology in Education, Consortium for School Networking, and the Software & Information Industry Association.


District Leadership Buy-in

As the Alliance reaches out to district leaders, the need for a planning tool to help districts think through the effective use of technology to achieve higher standards is critical. Even district leaders who have made significant progress have encouraged the Alliance to create these tools to help districts move forward and plan for progress.


District-Level Systemic Planning Framework

The Alliance’s objective is to encourage districts to stop and take a deep breath before buying more technology. The Alliance will help districts through a comprehensive planning process around seven interconnected areas within the educational system where technology and digital learning can maximize the impact on student achievement:

  • teaching and professional learning;
  • use of time;
  • budget and resources;
  • data systems and online assessment;
  • curriculum and instruction;
  • technology and infrastructure; and
  • academic support and resources.


Teaching and Professional Learning

In recent years, all states have raised their academic standards to align with today’s college and career demands. For educators and administrators to be prepared to teach these new standards, they must receive the necessary training to fully grasp the changing emphasis on covered topics, as well as focal points for instruction that open doorways to deeper levels of understanding for students. Teachers must also have sufficient time to revise curriculum and instructional materials and/or to review new curriculum and materials aligned to college- and career-ready standards. Ongoing support needs to be created for teachers to work with their peers to review student performance data, determine how to adjust instruction to support students, and provide additional support for students not yet on track to meet the new standards.

These changes require a vastly different approach to professional development than is currently the norm. Technology and digital learning offer critical tools for supporting this instructional shift. Specifically, they enable the dynamic tracking and management of the learning needs of all students; provide a platform to access engaging digital content, resources, and learning opportunities; and offer collaborative opportunities for teachers. Few policy and investment decisions are as important as carefully aligning technology and digital learning to support initial and ongoing professional development for all teachers and leaders around the new goal of college and career readiness for all students. School districts that are staged to provide professional learning to support teachers and administrators will have the following in place:

  • Skill set for the digital age
    Educators expand their skills sets beyond content knowledge. Professional learning includes immersion in cognitive and learning sciences that provide support both for new instructional practices and for the purposeful promotion of twenty-first-century skills in all students. A variety of new research-based instructional strategies is mastered to better engage students and prepare them for college and beyond.
  • Diverse opportunities for professional learning
    Beyond the workshop, educators have access to, and the technology savvy necessary to leverage, professional development opportunities that are diverse, customizable, and often supported by the latest technologies. Professional learning is available 24/7 in a variety of modes.
  • New responsibilities for collaboration
    Educators have access to collaborative tools and environments that break down classroom, school, and even district walls. Virtually all professional development encourages, facilitates, and often requires the creation and maintenance of professional networks both inside and outside districts, often leveraging the latest in social media.
  • Broad-based participative evaluation
    In order to promote goal-oriented, self-regulated professional behaviors, evaluation is participative, i.e., the educator who is the subject of evaluation is actively involved in goal setting, collection of progress indicators, and self evaluation. Professional evaluation uses a broad set of indicators that include not only student achievement, but also evidence of improved instructional practice, student engagement, and twenty-first-century skill attainment.


Use of Time

The use of digital learning and technology provides many opportunities to expand access to effective teachers and learning opportunities. In the United States, time has long been perceived as the constant, while learning is the variable. Today, learning and outcomes should be the constant, with time as the variable.

The use of time is not limited to time in class; it also includes time inside and outside the school setting. Strategies such as online and blended learning, flipping the classroom, project-based learning, or community-based internships take advantage of a new application of time. Some policies, such as those related to the Carnegie unit or seat time, present important change levers because they often limit new approaches to time. Other changes in the use of time require states and districts to promote new thinking around policies including competency-based advancement, formative assessment strategies, new funding models, and personalized learning plans for each student.

School districts that are staged to take advantage of the use of time as a strategic and critical component to improve student learning will have the following in place:

  • Learning is flexible, occurring anytime, anywhere
    Leveraging technology and media resources, learning options are available for students at any time of day, in any location.
  • New pedagogy, schedules, and learning environment for personalized learning
    To facilitate flexible learning, educators work together to identify and validate new designs for personalized learning, where the use of time is adaptable and flexible. Associated resources are made available to students both synchronously and asynchronously to promote flexibility.
  • Competency-based learning
    Along with flexible schedules, and as one facet of personalized learning, the pace of learning is adaptable as well as based on the needs of individual students and the challenges of complex, project-based work.
  • Strategies for providing extended time for projects and collaboration
    Rather than rigid schedules and short class periods, time allocations in the digital learning school are flexible, allowing for extended work time for complex projects. Consideration of available time moves beyond the school day, as digital learning resources allow for a repurposing of what was previously homework time.


Budget and Resources

Shrinking or stagnant budgets and growing college- and career-readiness demands require that districts and schools approach budgeting and resources in creative, systemic, and often new ways. Digital learning and technology, while often seen as separate line items or additions to the typical funding streams and expenses, should be integrated into the budgeting process in a smart and streamlined way. This includes ongoing maintenance and support as well as a comprehensive view of how technology and digital learning can support administrative and instructional needs and goals. Specifically, districts should have evidence of the following:

  • Efficiency and cost savings
    Funding for digital learning leverages technologies that increase efficiency and cost savings.
  • Consistent funding streams
    Budgets for digital learning programs and initiatives are part of the annual maintenance and operation budget for the district. Reliance on grant funding or temporary sources is minimal, and funding for digital learning is integrated within all budget areas where appropriate.
  • Alignment of strategic and tactical plans at the district and building levels
    Priorities for budget and resources are clearly linked to district- and building-level plans and to school improvement goals. All expenditures must be justified as supportive of these plans. Innovative programs are funded when they are aligned to the overall vision and mission.
  • Learning return on investment
    All metrics for the review of budget priorities are based on their demonstrated relationship to student learning goals.


Data Systems and Online Assessment

Schools and school systems have been collecting a wealth of data on student and school performance and practices for generations, yet they have rarely been able to combine data from different sources or analyze data effectively to inform classroom and school decisions. Technology now makes it possible to substantially enhance both the amount of data collected and the ability to use it effectively. Through the use of assessments and analytical tools, teachers and school administrators can

  • track student progress over time and determine which students are at risk of failure;
  • pinpoint areas of the curriculum where large numbers of students are struggling in order to redesign instruction;
  • identify professional development needs and priorities; and
  • inform a wide range of decisions on instructional and organizational practices.

A district that is staged to utilize data systems and online assessments to meet the needs of all administrators, teachers, and students will have the following in place:

  • A culture of evidence-based decisionmaking. The use of formative and summative assessment information is part of the school culture, with administrators, teachers, and, perhaps most importantly, students who are actively engaged in the use of this data to improve learning. Assessment is not viewed as punitive, but rather as instructive to the teaching and learning process. There is an expectation that data will be used to inform all teaching and learning practices and decisions. This is modeled at all levels of the system, from the administration to students.
  • Online assessment and data systems that support the data culture. To facilitate data-driven decisionmaking, the appropriate data, such as data dashboards and data analytics, are readily available at all times and from any location.
  • Staff members who are literate in data and assessment. Educators in the system understand the use and potential misuse of data and assessments systems in the teaching and learning process.
  • An adaptive learning environment where analytics inform instruction. The digital learning school has mechanisms, such as processes and digital environments, for using data to improve, enrich, and guide the learning process. Educators actively use data to guide choices related to curriculum, content, and instructional strategies.


Curriculum and Instruction

In recent years, all U.S. states have raised their academic standards to align with the demands of preparation for college and a career. Forty-six states have adopted the Common Core State Standards, and four others have developed and adopted their own college- and career-ready standards. As a result, all K–12 English language arts and mathematics instruction across the country should soon reflect college- and career-ready expectations for every student, and states will be administering new assessments aligned to these standards in the 2014–15 school year.

These new standards significantly raise the academic bar for all students by calling for a deeper understanding of material, solid mastery of skills, increased critical thinking, and the ability to apply what they have learned. These are the skills that students must possess in order to succeed in a postsecondary institution, the modern workplace, and today’s global environment, which calls on citizens to remain active learners throughout their lifetime.

A district that is staged to provide curriculum and instruction to meet the needs of all students will have the following in place:

  • Rigorous deep learning. Curriculum and instruction are based on clear expectations that all students will leave the system well prepared for either college acceptance or alternative paths to workplace readiness. These expectations mandate a solid grounding in standards-based content; twenty-first-century skills, such as critical thinking, creativity, innovation, and self direction; and opportunities for deep learning that allow students to experience the core understandings related to that content.
  • Personalized learning. Educators leverage technology and diverse learning resources to personalize the learning experience for each student. Personalization involves the tailoring of content, pacing, and feedback to the needs of each student, and the empowerment of students to regulate/control some aspects of their learning.
  • An environment that is collaborative, relevant, and applied (authentic). In digital learning environments, students are given the opportunity to do the type of work that is easily perceived as similar to the work done by professionals in the larger society. They collaborate with other students, educators, and people outside the school environment in deep learning projects that have value beyond the classroom walls.
  • Educators who leverages technology. Educators in digital learning environments integrate technology seamlessly into the teaching and learning process. These educators have both the skills to adopt and adapt new technologies and filters that ensure that the use of technology adds value to the learning process. They leverage the technology in ways that personalize learning for their students.
  • Integration of twenty-first-century skills. A formal process is adopted to ensure that serious efforts are made across the curriculum to promote twenty-first-century skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration. All staff members are familiar with recent cognitive science related to these skills and use the strategies recommended by that science as a design feature of all curriculum and instruction.


Technology and Infrastructure

When strategically deployed, educational technology offers significant opportunities for improving student learning outcomes and enhancing teachers’ capabilities. Technology and infrastructure provide a wide spectrum of options for education, including the power to conduct online and formative assessments; access to digital content; learning and communication platforms; blended learning options; and online teacher professional development. A district that is staged to provide the technology and infrastructure necessary to meet the needs of all students will have the following in place:

  • Adequate and available devices. The district and its schools have considered diverse and creative options to ensure that appropriate technology devices are available to students to support learning at any time and in any location.
  • A robust network infrastructure. Adequate bandwidth and a supportive infrastructure are in place to ensure ready and consistent access to online resources for teaching and learning. Usage is monitored and possible bottlenecks are addressed before they can affect teaching and learning.
  • Adequate and responsive support. Sufficient support, characterized by a positive service orientation, is available in every school. This support is proactive, preparing teachers and students to use new technologies in order to reduce the need for interventions during the learning process.
  • A formal cycle for review and replacement. Technologies, software, hardware, and infrastructure are all constantly monitored to ensure that upgrades, additions, and, when called for, sun settings/eliminations, occur in a timely and proactive fashion.


Academic Support and Resources

Services and resources must be available inside and outside the school building and the traditional school day to ensure that students’ academic needs are being met. This may involve social services, connections to afterschool programs, opportunities for remediation or enrichment, and access to resources. The very nature of academic support and resources must be personalized to meet the needs of the district community and individual students. A district that is staged to provide academic support and resources to meet the needs of all students will have the following in place:

  • Expectations for learner-centered environments. Educators, leaders, and other personnel throughout the system have an understanding of the characteristics of a learner-centered educational environment and are well versed in the teaching and learning strategies that support those environments. Leadership has established expectations that teaching and learning will embody this principle.
  • Community engagement and communication. Schools within the district serve as hubs of the community. As such, they actively involve the community in achieving its learning goals, reaching out to the community to
    • extend learning into community centers, libraries, museums, and other public spaces;
    • bring relevance to curricula through partnerships that take the shape of apprenticeships, community service, and the use of community-based experts and resources;
    • use common responsible use policies for technologies in and across school and community-based programs;
    • provide community-based exhibitions, reviews, critiques, and celebrations of student work; and
    • offer coordinated afterschool programs, including alignment with the school and students’ teachers.
  • A digital learning environment. The school district has deployed a digital learning environment that offers access, e-communication, resource libraries, file exchanges, and other Web 2.0 tools that facilitate interactions among peers and between teachers, parents, and students in school and beyond. This environment includes a learning management system that provides educators and students with real-time access to a system that integrates and aligns digital and print-based content, student data (formative and summative), and learning standards. The digital content includes primary and supplementary resources across the curricula that offer students variety, choice, and multimodality.
  • Parental communication and engagement. The school district makes available opportunities personalized to the needs and resources of parents and students to communicate effectively about student performance, student needs, and available resources. This may include an internet-based collaboration platform or may require means that do not depend on connectivity in the home.


Team of Experts

The Alliance will convene a team of experts consisting of teachers, principals, librarians, media specialists, chief technology officers/chief information officers, and superintendents who come from districts of all sizes across the country and represent various demographic groups and perspectives.


Free Self Assessment and Resources for District Leaders

To ensure that educators’ needs are met, the Alliance is working with a nationally recognized expert in district-level technology planning and research, the Metiri Group, to build a self assessment aligned to the framework mentioned above. The self assessment is being developed for districts to take as a leadership team in about one hour, and the questions will be compiled and aligned to the framework. Within twenty-four hours the participating district will receive a report analyzing their progress and offering ideas on how to interact with the online resources being developed and released in the coming twenty-four-month period.


Resources and Materials

In addition to this self assessment, the Alliance will lead its partners in creating a well-organized set of resources to help district leaders plan systemically for progress. These will include

  • a district-level self assessment with a tailored report that includes ideas on how to participate;
  • opportunities to interact with a team of district leaders who have successfully gone through this transition;
  • blogs and other materials searchable by topic and author;
  • a webinar series supporting each of the topics listed above;
  • a website that offers various materials, guiding questions, and policy recommendations;
  • a leadership course offered online free of charge; and
  • an online community of practice through a special partnership with Epic-ed.


Reaching Out to District Leaders

The Alliance is beginning to seek support from district leaders to sign up and make plans to take the self assessment when it is available in early January 2013. It is hoped that the first 100 districts will be recognized on the website as part of the Century Club Leadership Team.


Celebrate Success! Join Digital Learning Day, February 6, 2013

Digital Learning Day is a national celebration of teachers that shines a spotlight on successful instructional technology practice in classrooms across the country. Add your voice and expertise to that of tens of thousands of educators representing nearly 2 million students in ongoing activities, idea sharing, and collaboration leading up to the big event. Mark your calendar, and join the wave of innovation sweeping through the nation’s schools. Participation is free.


Editorial Projects in Education, “Diplomas Count 2010: Graduating by the Number: Putting Data to Work for Student Success,” special issue,Education Week 29, no. 34 (2010).
ACT, “The Condition of College & Career Readiness, Based on ACT Profile Report—National: Graduating Class 2011,” (accessed December 2011). An alternative measure of college readiness, based on SAT scores in reading, mathematics, and writing, is issued by the College Board; that measure in 2011 was 43 percent.

3 Complete College America, Time Is the Enemy: 2011 National Report (Washington, DC: Author, 2011).
5 A. Carnevale, N. Smith, and J. Strohl, Help Wanted: Projecting Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018 (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, June 2010).
6 National Association of State Budget Officers, The Fiscal Survey of the States, 2011, December 2011).
7 Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, “An Update on State Budget Cuts,” February 9, 2011, (accessed December 2011).
8 R. Ingersoll and E. Merrill, University of Pennsylvania, original analyses for NCTAF of Schools and Staffing Survey.
9 MetLife, The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Preparing Students for College and Career (New York, NY: Author, 2011).
10 Alliance for Excellent Education, The Digital Learning Imperative: How Technology and Teaching Meet Today’s Education Challenges (Washington, DC: Author, 2012).


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