DLA Endorsed Legislative Policy Recommendations

12 recommendations for digital learning bills to achieve greater outcomes

DLA has compiled a list of important policy choices when drafting education technology legislation in order to have the highest outcomes possible and return on investment. We have identified three categories to be considered when writing and amending education policy; these factors will help to write a successful bill using bill recommendations, model RFP (request for proposal) strategy, and successful implementation factors.

Bill Recommendations

  1. Vision, Goals, Objectives with explicit outcomes expected
    1. The outcomes targeting what the new legislation expects to achieve must be measurable and clearly presented to avoid confusion. It must also outline the problem and what gains can be made from the new policy.
    2. Implement performance measures and management processes to monitor and compare actual performance to planned results.
    3. Ongoing funding is dependent upon outcomes.
  1. Governance/Roles and Responsibilities
    1. If necessary a governing board should be established consisting of members from government, business, education leaders, teachers, college/university representatives, and others.  These members meet periodically to provide oversight direction and recommendations.  Funding for staffing, travel, and meetings may be required to support a program’s mission.
    2. Establish oversight mechanisms that require periodic review to determine how mission requirements might have changed, whether the program continues to fulfill ongoing and anticipated mission requirements, and also deliver intended outcomes.
    3. Conduct post-implementation reviews of projects to validate estimated costs and benefits, and to document effective management practices (lessons learned) for broader use.
    4. Independent bodies are appropriated funds to evaluate the progress of an implemented program in order to ensure its productivity and success.  Budget allocations should be based on achievement of milestones and/or outcomes, not upfront in a lump sum. Require that formal criteria to cancel projects or put them on hold be established.
  1. Metrics and Requirements
    1. Metrics refers to a specific value to define the problem.  This is necessary to convey the scope of the problem.  The requirement ensures that the metric is surpassed for overall improvement. 
    2. Projects must include measurable and important academic outcomes.
    3. Preference will be given to applications which are committed to provide dramatic improvements vs the status quo.

RFP Model

  1. Competitive Grant Approach
    1. A competitive process used to find districts that are the most capable and eager to take advantage of a program, and commit to its success. To further enhance a competitive process, schools are able to choose digital technology products and services from a choice of multiple companies, selected through a rigorous Request for Proposal (RFP) process at the State Board of Education, in order to find the best match.
    2. District grantees will assign a sponsor who is responsible for ensuring successful implementation of the project and providing accurate and timely data to the governing board.  In addition, districts should seek the help of experts who can help districts navigate the instructional design and content selection process where the student and educators are at the center of the transformation rather than the product or solution. 
    3. Matching resources (time, talent, funding) should be considered.
  1. Acquisition Strategy
    1. Legislation should be ecumenical (vendor/product agnostic).  Technology changes too quickly for legislation to keep pace.
    2. Competitive RFP process should be encouraged.  Large purchases undertaken by the State should be made in bulk and leverage state or other cooperative buying agreements, if possible.  As an example, broadband purchases can be made cheaper by purchasing from providers in bulk.  Districts should be able to choose digital technology products and services from multiple companies, selected through a rigorous Request for Proposal (RFP) process at the State Board of Education.
    3. State funds should be awarded under a competitive basis to schools that are committed to and capable of delivering the successful outcomes.  Projects must include measurable and important academic outcomes.
  1. Prioritize data sharing and interoperability
    1. The data, content, and applications from any purchased technology must be easily sharable and interoperable. The technology purchased must be capable of seamless integration across multiple programs to prevent extra work for educators who are presented with products that cannot work in tandem. 
    2. Consider statewide standards for content sharing, collaboration, and reuse of assets (digital textbooks, software, devices).
  1. Professional Development
    1. When a new solution is implemented in the classroom, professional development is necessary to show the teachers how to properly implement the solution; it does not just refer to teaching the teachers how to teach.
    2. No technologies can deliver major scalable, sustainable change without transformational leadership; that requires investment in leadership skills and change in management skills development for administrators and teachers.
    3. Specific, approved, and targeted professional development is required for superintendents, principals, and other instructional leaders.
    4. Initial PD programs must be supplemented by ongoing periodic mentoring for at least the first two years of the project.

Program Implementation

  1. Security, Privacy and Data
    1. Services and programs that incorporate digital content, platforms, mobile applications, application programming interfaces, and other new and emerging technologies must be designed and operated in a manner that fosters trust, accountability, and transparency in how personal information is collected, retained, used, and disclosed through the information’s life cycle.
    2. The privacy and confidentiality of student data and the standards that support that privacy and confidentiality must be of utmost importance. Any technology solution developed, implemented, and maintained must be fully compliant with State and Federal law, including FERPA, COPPA, and PPRA regulations.
  1. Economic Return on Investment (ROI)
    1. Economic priorities are the most fundamental part of a bill, and should be clearly defined.  Economic priorities and goals should guide device and content purchases, not the other way around.
    2. Project should be designed to include process re-engineering that will result in cost savings when compared to current practice.
    3. Specific legislative and policy measures should be enacted to ensure savings are identified and re-captured and not absorbed into the system.
    4. A fundamental assumption for this program is that over time it will be self-sustaining.  Savings at the state and district levels, along with re-allocation of budgets, will make the program fit within the general operating budget of the district.
  1. Accountability
    1. Fundamental to the success of the program will be accountability measures for all stakeholders.  Districts that receive funds must commit to reliable execution.  If districts fail to follow through with commitments, funds may be required to be returned, at the discretion of the state office of education.
  1. Program Implementation
    1. Require an implementation plan from each potential grantee to ensure there is buy-in on the goals, objectives and expected outcomes.  Plans should include district readiness to integrate the technology into the curriculum – administrative/teacher preparation and development, network access and capacity, and ability to compute resources.
    2. Plans should incorporate long-term strategy for scalable and sustainable deployments, and integration across the curriculum.
  1. Program Implementation
    1. A uniform independent evaluation program will be administered from the Department of Education.  The program will enable the collection of common data across all participating districts.  The program will include electronic data collection wherever possible, to improve accuracy and reliability and reduce costs.