Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) states are empowered to invest in education technology. With funding targeted specifically to support the use of technology in the classroom, states are implementing various programs that use education technology to boost traditional classroom learning.
Using Blended Learning to Improve Educational Outcomes
ESSA specifically defines and recommends “blended learning.” Blended learning means a formal education program that leverages both technology-based and face-to-face instructional approaches. This approach uses education technology to complement traditional classroom learning. The goal is to create an individualized learning experience to allow students to learn at their own pace to increase learning outcomes.
States have implemented blended learning programs in a variety of ways. For instance, Rhode Island has several charter schools that use blended learning models. Additionally, blended learning is part of Rhode Island’s strategic plan for education. In 2016, Colorado adopted a legislation and appropriated funds to increase district access to blended learning resources.
This year, Texas established the Blended Learning Grant Program. The program will award grants to districts and charter schools to grow blended learning programs in both math and other subjects. The legislation requires the commissioner to prioritize to districts with the highest enrollment of students who are educationally disadvantaged.
The opportunities for blended learning continue to evolve. Using technology-based instruction alongside traditional classroom teaching promotes more personalized learning and gives students more tools for success.
Using Technology-Based Assessments to Measure Student Progress
ESSA requires statewide assessments in math and English language arts every year in third through eighth grade. In a 2017 report, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Education Technology noted that technology-based assessment can offer real-time reporting of results and help educators better understand students’ strengths and weaknesses. States are now trending toward using more technology-based assessments to measure student learning throughout the year, rather than the traditional end of year cumulative test.
Computer-adaptive assessments (which are permitted under ESSA) can be tailored to individual students. How a student responds to a question determines the difficulty of the next question. This innovative approach can provide a more accurate representation of a student’s ability and teachers can use to data to support classroom instruction.
Several states use computer-adaptive assessments. For instance, Virginia’s school divisions use computer adaptive testing in reading and math. Nebraska is in the first year of a three year plan that implements adaptive-testing and uses a “through-year model” that tests students in the fall, winter, and spring. The assessments provide grade-level performance information during the school year and can provide multiple chances for students to demonstrate proficiency.
Using Data to Improve Transparency
With more technology available to students, school systems are using data to track student progress and in some cases, share that data. California, Michigan, and Maine (along with other states) created dashboards to report student and district metrics. Dashboards allow parents to review critical data on their student but also on the districts as a whole. States report on metrics such as chronic absenteeism, test scores, and graduation rates. This comprehensive data better supports accountability and transparency.
Whether used daily in the classroom, for assessment purposes, or communicating data on school performance, education technology is changing educational experiences for students, teachers, and parents.
"Personalized learning is one of the great equalizers in education – allowing students of all backgrounds and proficiencies an opportunity to learn and grow at their own pace. States are increasingly embracing this movement to blend technology with individual teaching. Our commitment remains to make it easier for educators to individualize learning for every student through simple technology, actionable data, quality content, and a passion for customer success."
- Marcus Lingenfelter, SVP, Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships, Edmentum