Recent years have helped clarify the significant linkages between an improved public education system and a strong economy. After years of talking about 21st century skills, STEM education and the like, we now see that our future societal and economic success depend largely on what our kids learn in the classroom, how they learn it, and how well they are able to apply it to the world around them.
College and career readiness stands as a focal point for K-12 education in the coming year. The nation will be watching closely to see what develops with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization. We’ll also be tracking Common Core State Standards and proficiency exams, as well as their impact on student achievement. College and career readiness has become the ultimate metric for measuring school and educator effectiveness and the success of our primary and secondary education systems.
Education technology is utterly central to college and career readiness in 2012 and a core non-negotiable for success. It is essential for building student learning and achievement, for improving our lowest performing schools, and for developing relevant achievement measures and data systems. Further, we must provide professional development in technology integration to boost educator effectiveness and strengthen our public schools.
Representing more than 100,000 educational leaders, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has long been committed to ensuring all districts, schools, and classrooms have both the access and understanding to effectively integrate ed tech into the modern-day instructional experience. To that end, for 2012 we have identified three key principles that should guide educational policy making. At ISTE, we believe every child should have:
1. Great teachers and principals.
Throughout the past several years, more and more attention has been placed on the topic of “effective educators.” We continue to explore the best ways to evaluate teachers and principals and we explore ways to identify, recruit, retain, and support the best possible educators. As we do so, we must recognize that classroom technology skills are a pre-requisite of “highly effective” teaching. All students should have access to P-12 educators who use modern information tools and digital content to support student learning in all content areas. Ultimately, we must provide our teachers and principals with a comprehensive set of digital resources and relevant 21st century professional development. These digital age resources help them transform teaching and provide all students with a 21st century learning experience focused on college and career preparation. Professional development for teachers and principals is foundational to ensuring that educators are indeed effective.
2. An education that provides true college and career readiness.
It is not enough to simply declare college and career readiness as a goal, nor can we expect to produce the highest percentage of college graduates in the world by the year 2020 without making significant improvements in what we teach, how we teach it, and how students learn to apply it. If the upcoming ESEA is indeed going to be a College and Career Readiness Act, we must effectively engage student learning through new instructional approaches and new technologies, with teachers demonstrating the relevance of a 21st century education. All of which require opportunities for educators to participate in sustained and systemic training designed specifically to refocus instructional approaches and use new technologies.
ISTE’s NETS for Students provide an important roadmap for the global digital age skills students need to be truly ready for college and career opportunities. The NETS identify higher-order thinking skills and digital citizenship as critical for student success, and can help empower students to think critically, solve problems, make decisions, and use technology effectively and productively. ISTE’s NETS for Teachers can guide professional development goals and best practices for a relevant 21st century education, which is foundational to ensuring that students are in fact college and career ready in today’s technology-rich communication-centric world.
3. Access to broadband, both at school and at home.
As ISTE noted in its policy priorities for 2010 and 2011, the United States must continue its national commitment to closing the digital divide. We must work to provide all students access to affordable broadband and the virtually limitless information and learning tools resulting from it. Increasingly, today’s students and teachers rely on broadband for everyday classroom needs. School and district networks barely keep pace with these increased demands, and many are hitting the breaking point. Students also need Internet access at home, as successful completion of school assignments often demands access to broadband. Students who do not have Internet access at home are at a significant disadvantage. We must ensure that students gain access to broadband at home, ensuring that all of our students have Internet access to educational materials outside of school hours.
If, as a nation, we are serious about preparing all of our students for both college and career, providing them with the strongest and most effective P-12 learning experience possible, we must focus on what is most important to the individual student and the collective success. In the 21st century, every student in the United States should have excellent teachers and principals. Every student should truly be prepared for college and career. And every student should have affordable access to broadband. ISTE is committed to achieving these goals, and its members look forward to working with policymakers, the business community, educators, community leaders, families, and students to make these goals a policy reality in 2012.