The Department of education would this financial year like to make the connectED Initiative the core focus of our department. The mission of the Department of Education continues to be promoting student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access. American students need to be adequately equipped with skills that enable them to compete with students from all over the world (Adam, 58). This can only be done through increasing interactive and individualized learning experiences driven by new technology which uses platforms such as digital textbooks that assists students to visualize complex concepts and programs, availing high quality instructions, expanding access to rigorous coursework, helping teachers to assess which lessons or activities are running.
Unfortunately, the reality on the ground is that most schools and students lack access to this learning technology. Less than 20% of educators think that the internet connection in their school meets their teaching needs. We as a country have been lagging behind in terms of digital learning and technology education compared to countries such as South Korea. These factors have put our students at a disadvantage as there is a mismatch between student preparedness and employer demands. The rate of academic progress must be significantly accelerated for the United States to maintain a competitive edge in the twenty-first century global economy (Daniel, 70).
Once successful, 99% of American students connected to the internet fall through. ConnectED will also provide better broadband connection for students in rural areas, by broadening successful efforts to connect portions of the country that typically have preoblems attracting investment in broadband infrastructure. Next generation broadband and high-speed wireless will be virtually available to students and teachers both in and out of the classrooms. They will have access to affordable mobile devices that will in turn provide access to digital learning resources. Digital high-quality learning resources will be available to everyone, and the skills of teachers will be improved profoundly.
The Department of Education is requesting a slight increase in its budget allocation in comparison to the last financial year. This is to support the ConnectEDucators program which is a part of the broader ConnectED Initiative. Through this program, we are aiming to help educators to be adequately prepared to use broadband internet and digital e-learning resources, personalize learning and improve college- and career-ready instruction in a way that increases student learning and achievement. This will allow for real-time evaluation of student learning, providing more on-time feedback to drive professional advancement, and enable the creation of interactive online lessons that can empower teachers to understand each student’s strengths and weaknesses. It designs lessons and activities that better meet their needs and collaborates demonstrations and lessons of teachers from and world-renowned experts from any school with learning communities and educators across the country or world.
We are therefore, requesting an additional $200million for this program. These funds will also be used in sponsoring leadership positions at the state level in form of formula grants. A portion of it would help boost state and local capacity to back the progression to digital education. The department is also requesting for $30 million for teacher professional development of over 4000 teachers all over Washington D.C. 23% of the budget will be aimed at specific areas of reform such as expanding access to high-quality preschool, data-driven instructions based on college and career ready standards, making college affordable, and mitigating the effects of poverty on educational outcomes. 89% of the discretionary spending will be targeted on formula grants and the remainder on competitive grants.
We are also working closely with states and school districts to better use the Elementary and Secondary school Act to strategically invest in this professional development program. We fully support and encourage leading technology companies that are capable of producing feature-rich educational devices that are price-competitive with basic textbooks to come forward and support this program. These educational devices supported by high-speed networks are the portal to the world of online learning and interactive content, to individualized education software that adapts to students’ needs, and to advances in assessing understanding and mastery (Wallace, 78). At the same time, American jobs and export opportunities will be created in the global education marketplace of more than $1trillion.
Several technological giant-companies have also come forward to support this initiative. Apple has pledged $100million in Ipads, Macbooks and other products whereas Microsoft has promised to discount the price of its Windows operating system and provide more than 12 million copies of its Office application for free to qualifying institutions. Other partners include AT&T, Autodesk, O’reilly Media, Sprint, Verizon and many more.
We know that your government strongly believes that education is a crucial investment in the nation’s economic competitiveness, in its people, and in its communities and that you were the frontrunner in launching this very enriching five-year plan. We as the Department of Education are keenly committed to seeing that the program is a success and our teachers are empowered with the best technology whereas our students emerge as global leaders in individualized learning thus making them highly sought after and ready for the job market. As you asked Sir, “In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, why shouldn’t we have it in our schools?”
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