District of Columbia Public Schools Student Technology Equity Act of 2019, B23-0196
November 6, 2019
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Suzanne Wells, and I am the president of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization.
Ward 6 parents have been at the forefront of advocating for adequate and reliable technology in our schools. Last year four of our school PTAs (Miner Elementary, Payne Elementary, Amidon-Bowen Elementary, and JO Wilson Elementary) were founding members of a parent advocacy effort to address the unreliable technology in DCPS. They have since formed a city-wide coalition of parents who have been advocating for additional funding and support for school technology, as well as a long-range technology plan.
Ward 6 schools have struggled to maintain working technology. Ward 6 schools don’t just use computers for testing, they also use them for learning. Several Ward 6 schools use blended learning programs that combine digital learning with traditional teaching. Having Central Office provide devices for grades 3-12 will help support our schools. Having a comprehensive technology plan will help to ensure there is a multi-year, sustainable plan for funding and providing technology to schools, not just a short-term initiative.
I believe the DCPS Student Technology Equity Act is needed because it recognizes DCPS has not done an adequate job in providing technology throughout the school system. The bill places aggressive, but achievable timelines for conducting a needs assessment, and developing a comprehensive technology plan. My remaining comments focus on questions for the Education Committee about the Act.
- The Act seems focused on student computers, tablets and similar devices. Schools today use Smartboards in classrooms, and teachers need laptops to do their work. Because technology such as Smartboards is not included, and teachers are not mentioned in the bill, is it the intention of the Education Committee that these not be included in the comprehensive technology plan?
I believe the Act should be flexible and broad enough to cover a wide range of technology outside of computers and tablets, and written in a way that acknowledges there will likely be new developments in technology we don’t even know about today. I would also caution the Committee in using overly prescriptive words such as “a plan to achieve or maintain a one-to-one-device-to-student ratio for grades 3 – 12,” and instead use language that seeks to optimize the use of technology in the classroom to support student learning.
- The Act gives significant responsibility to the Technology Steering Committee. The Committee is tasked to contract with a DC-based partner, conduct the technology needs assessment, and develop a comprehensive technology plan. As I read the bill, I was struck by how much responsibility is given to the Technology Steering Committee instead of to DCPS.
Many, many organizations have technology plans that are developed in-house. Of course, many of the members of the Technology Steering Committee members will undoubtedly be DCPS staff. Yet, I could also envision a successful path forward where DCPS is directed to do many, if not all, of the responsibilities described in this Act, and the Technology Steering Committee advices DCPS on the technology audit and the comprehensive technology plan.
Can the Education Committee explain why it believes placing the responsibilities in the hands of the Technology Steering Committee rather than DCPS will be the best approach?
- Finally, implementation of a comprehensive technology plan will require funding. I would hate to see DCPS have to reduce teaching staff or cut out other vital needs in the school to fund technology. I encourage the Education Committee to work with DCPS to find the funding to implement this Act.