November 16, 2022
Digital Equity in DC Education
DCPS Budget Hearing
Good evening. My name is Grace Hu and I am a parent at Amidon-Bowen Elementary. Today I am here on behalf of Digital Equity in DC Education, a citywide coalition of parents working to close the digital divide and to provide a 21st century education for our children.
We’ve come a long way with DCPS technology since we first met with DCPS leadership in 2018.
While DCPS has made significant progress in some areas, such as the provision of devices to students and teachers, it is still faltering in areas such as school-level asset management and digital literacy instruction.
We were encouraged to see the FY 2023 budget investment in student and teacher devices. Moving forward, we ask that you maintain the 1:1 student-device ratio for grades 3-12 throughout the year and continue to provide a device for every teacher.
Additionally, we urge you to plan for and fund a robust tech refresh cycle with sufficient contingency inventory of devices to account for annual device loss. After three years of the Empowered Learners initiative, we expect that you have better data on device loss rates and tech refresh needs. At this point, we should be able to order and replace devices before the school buildings close for the year so they are ready to go on Day 1 of teacher in-service which is August 16, 2023.
2. Classroom Technology
We are encouraged by recent investments in new Smartboards. However, the Smartboard installation project has been an uncontested failure. We understand that the selected installation vendor was only able to install a small number of Smartboards a day and that some schools have been struggling with outdated equipment in the classroom while Smartboards have been sitting in boxes waiting to be installed. We urge you to resolve the installation issues as soon as possible so that schools can make use of Smartboards that you have invested in. Again, we all know when the first day of school is so all planning should be focused with implementation well in advance of August 29, 2023.
3. Tech Support/Asset Management
IT asset management continues to be a significant challenge for schools and has real impacts on learning. This past year, some schools struggled with keeping their school IT inventories updated. Since DCPS relies on the school inventories to determine the number of computers to provide to schools, outdated school inventories led to delays in Central Office provision of the correct number of student devices. We still do not understand why DCPS has not provided additional asset management support to schools, including requesting that OCTO provide more support to schools in this area. Until we address challenges with asset management and IT support, we will not be maximizing the use of our technology assets to provide a seamless teaching and learning experience. OCTO knows how many computers they have to service at each school, therefore they should be able and responsible for supplying an accurate count and functionality update.
4. Digital Literacy
Digital literacy skills are critical for effective use of technology, yet we are not seeing consistent support and teaching of digital literacy skills at the school level. The extent to which digital literacy skills are taught often depends on whether a school principal or school staff have prioritized instruction in this area. We urge you to provide teachers and schools with the time and supports to fully integrate digital literacy instruction into curriculum. Without robust digital literacy students can not perform well in the annual standardized or grade assessment tests.
DCPS Digital Equity Act of 2022
This past September we were delighted to see the DC Council pass the DCPS Digital Equity Act of 2022. As you know, we have been advocating for a comprehensive, multi-year technology plan and school technology assessments that are mandated by this law. Until DCPS has a funded, multi-year comprehensive plan, tied to instructional goals and budgets, technology will continue to be managed in an unpredictable, costly, and inefficient manner. We look forward to working with you on implementation of this important law. Any delay greatly impacts our DCPS students and stunts their academic growth for years to come.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify.