A number of digital education provisions made their way into a U.S. Senate bill designed to promote equal education opportunities for every student through federal grants and scholarships.
Senate Bill 1177 passed on Thursday, July 16, on a vote of 81-17 -- which is a big deal because now, both the Senate and the House of Representatives have approved different pieces of legislation that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 under a new name. Senators and representatives will see if they can hammer out a compromise between the two bills in the coming weeks.
Though senators submitted 178 amendments to S.B. 1177, only 65 of them made it into the final bill. The ones that did make it tackled a number of topics, including digital education issues.
Several amendments authorized studies on student access to digital learning resources outside of school and cybersecurity education. Another one dealt with support for school libraries that teach students digital literacy. Three bills address access to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) instruction. And another trio of bills handles student data privacy.
Of two digital equity bills that Sen. Angus S. King, Jr. (I-Maine) submitted, one was not proposed on the Senate floor, and the other passed unanimously. Amendment 2153 would have created a pilot funded by the federal government to help states and school districts figure out how to provide Internet access to students when they're not on campus. While that one didn't make it to debate, Amendment 2154 did pass and will authorize a national study on what's actually going on with student Internet access outside the classroom.
"In general, we haven't seen that conversation happening in a lot of communities, so there's a lot of work we've got to do," said Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking. "And the first step of having that conversation is having better data."
Senators also looked for better data on cybersecurity education — a hot topic in today's digital environment — and student data privacy, which a student privacy committee is tasked with studying.
And they didn't forget libraries. In fact, they passed Amendment 2085 98-0 to make sure education agencies helped develop effective school library programs that teach digital literacy and prepare students for life after K-12 education.
Leslie Proddy, an Indiana librarian and president of the American Association of School Librarians, said this vote shows that policymakers are considering the ramifications of a society without digital literacy experts.
"Now we're acknowledging that being a digital native doesn't mean that you're digitally literate," Proddy said. While students may know how to use smart devices, that doesn't translate to an inate ability to analyze, interpret or develop new technology. That's why school librarians are so important.
On the STEM side of the equation, senators planned to achieve three different objectives with their amendments: Increase access to STEM education for under-represented students, improve student learning progress in STEM courses, and bring in retired or current STEM employees to help educate them.
The table below shows the 12 amendments that have digital education ties.
Digital equity at home
Senate Bill 1177 Digital Education Amendments
|Amendment 2154, Sponsor: Sen. Angus S. King, Jr. (I-Maine), co-sponsor: Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). Agreed to in the Senate by unanimous consent on July 15.|
Purpose: To authorize the Institute of Education Sciences to conduct a study on student access to digital learning resources outside of the school day.
Digital literacy and libraries
Purpose: To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 regarding school librarians and effective school library programs.
Technology definitions and funding
Purpose: To amend the definitions of eligible technology and technology readiness survey and to provide a restriction on funds.
Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)
Purpose: To amend the program under part E of title II to ensure increased access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics subject fields for underrepresented students, and for other purposes.
Purpose: To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 relating to improving student academic achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Purpose: To include partnering with current and recently retired STEM professionals and tailoring educational resources to engage students and teachers in STEM.
Purpose: To require a report on cybersecurity education.
Career and technical education
Purpose: To add career and technical education as a core academic subject.
Student data privacy
Purpose: To provide that state assessments not evaluate or assess personal or family beliefs and attitudes, or publicly disclose personally identifiable information.
Purpose: To amend section 1111(c) of the ESEA to require states to provide an assurance regarding cross-tabulation of student data.
Purpose: To provide for shared services strategies and modelsREAD THE FULL MOBILE ARTICLE