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Ed-Tech Groups Lend Support to ESEA Rewrite

Several leading ed-tech advocacy groups have come out in support of the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act approved by a Senate committee last week because of its inclusion of the ATTAIN Act, a program that could reshape federal funding of ed-tech initiatives.

In particular, the amendment offered by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., would prioritize reforms like moving to competency-based pathways to graduation and removing enrollment cap policies for online courses.

The Consortium for School Networking, International Society for Technology in Education, State Educational Technology Directors Association, and Software and Information Industry Association released a joint statement Friday hailing the inclusion of the program in the bill, which would replace the currently unfunded Enhancing Education Through Technology program.

"We call on all members of Congress to support passage of the ATTAIN Act into law, to provide for its funding, and to infuse technology throughout ESEA programs to meet local needs," the statement reads.

Currently, Enhancing Education Through Technology, or EETT, is unfunded as a result of last spring's Congressional budget compromise. There is nothing in the ESEA reauthorization bill that guarantees a set level of funding for the ATTAIN Act were it to become law.

The ATTAIN Act—formally the Achievement Through Technology and Innovation Act of 2011—would use two different models for distribution of funding, depending on the amount of funding allocated to the program in a given year.

If less than $300 million were appropriated to the program during a given year, grants would be awarded competitively to states and state consortia based on progress states and consortia had made in several categories:
• linking graduation to competency demonstration rather than seat time;
• making digital content widely available;
• incorporating technology literacy training into teacher education;
• creating state or consortia technology literacy standards; and
• allowing flexible spending of state funds on technology endeavors.

If more than $300 were appropriated in a given year, funds would be awarded based on student poverty rates, with states distributing 40 percent of their allocation through competitive grants and the rest through poverty formula funding.

EETT, which had dwindled from a $700 million annual program at its inception in the early portion of the last decade, to a $100 million program before it was defunded, originally directed states to split funding 50-50 between need-based and competitive programs.

In 2006, Congress added language to the bill allowing state education agencies to award up to 100 percent of its EETT funds through competitive programs.

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