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Top Congressional Democrat Offers Ed-Tech Measure

Congressman George Miller, a top Democrat on Capitol Hill, has put forward a proposal that he says will encourage schools to use technology to improve testing, teacher training, and other aspects of instruction and learning.

The "Transforming Education Through Technology Act" would require states and districts to "develop plans and policies that put the best technology in the hands of students and teachers to support learning and achievement," Miller said in a statement.

The California lawmaker is the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and has been a major architect of many education policies during his time in office. In offering up his ed-tech proposal, he's marshalled the support of a number of big-name school organizations and digital advocacy groups.

Those organizations include the Consortium for School Networking, the Software and Information Industry Association, the American Association of School Administrators, the National Education Association, the State Educational Technology Directors Association, and the National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition.

Miller said in a statement that his proposal would do more to create opportunities for teachers to receive instant feedback while guiding students through lessons, and to exhange information through technology with "peers beyond school walls."

[UPDATE (12:15): Advocates for improved school technology have said that schools' ability to implement digital education has been hampered in recent years by the evaporation of federal Enhancing Education Through Technology funding, which provided $100 million to schools in 2010. An additional $650 million provided through federal stimulus dollars has also dried up, according to the Washington-based Consortium for School Networking, which represents K-12 educational technology leaders.

Miller's legislation would appear to be aimed in part at making up for those losses and directing federal funds toward a particular set of technological needs. It calls for Congress to fund $500 million in grants to states and districts for technology infrastructure and various types of support for schools, including using technology to help students with disabilities and English-language learners, improving teachers' expertise with digital tools, reaching geographically isolated student populations, redesigning curriculum and instruction, and helping districts give online assessments, a major challenge as schools prepare for the Common Core State Standards.

An additional $250 million would support a competitive grant program to use technology to improve instruction and assessment, teacher and administrator training, and promote individualized instruction, among other goals.

There's language throughout the legislation that says that states and other grant recipients will need to show that the money they receive is not being used to duplicate services already covered under the federal E-rate program.]

The prospects for the Democrat's proposal, like so many of the ideas floated on Capitol Hill these days, is unclear. The House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans, and there have been few bipartisan accords in recent years on education or other areas of policy.

The GOP chairman of the House education committee, John Kline of Minnesota, has not yet responded to a request for comment about Miller's proposal.

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