When the COVID-19 pandemic precipitated the closure of more than 132,000 K-12 public schools, it disrupted the lives of more than 50 million students and their families.
Schools urgently pivoted to remote learning to maintain instruction for students, throwing into sharp focus this nation’s digital divide of more than 9 million students lacking reliable internet connectivity at home.
This inequity was no longer a “homework gap,” but now a learning opportunity gap.
From the earliest days, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) supported state chiefs to close this divide for their students and ensure every child had access to remote instruction. As we go forward, CCSSO will continue to lead efforts of how states can leverage the potential for technology to support quality teaching and learning.
Our vision for the use of technology beyond the pandemic is in pursuit of a more modern, equitable preK-12 education system.
These modernization efforts will not only support remote and hybrid learning, but will also set the conditions necessary for states to foster student-centered learning, competency-based education, and project-based learning. Our work will align equity imperatives; vision, policy and leadership; innovation and technology; educator supports such as high-quality instructional materials; and student and parent engagement. We aim to support states in developing an ecosystem that embraces lessons learned throughout this pandemic to improve how our education system can better serve all students.
“As the national organization that represents every K-12 state leader, CCSSO and state chiefs know it is our responsibility to lead this next phase in modernizing our education system. Through this work, we will bring together key stakeholders and leverage their expertise to explore and develop new digital learning approaches that will have the greatest impact on students,” said Carissa Moffat Miller, chief executive officer of CCSSO.
To help states set the conditions for an optimal digital learning ecosystem, CCSSO has multiple strands of work underway to:
- Close the digital divide and ensure every student can access digital learning opportunities where they live.
- Support IT system readiness to foster effective digital learning.
- Provide guidance and share best practices in the key areas of data management, privacy, and security.
- Work closely with state education agency chief information officers to develop and implement their digital transformation strategies
- Ensure all students have access to high-quality instructional materials no matter where or how students are being taught. This work will be closely aligned with efforts already underway at CCSSO to support states as they work to increase adoptions and the effective use of standards-aligned, high-quality instructional materials by districts.
- Support the advocacy efforts needed to ensure the long-term sustainability of a modern digital ecosystem.
- Ensure careful consideration is given to closing equity gap.
On addressing the digital divide, states can't connect every child if they don't know who needs it. CCSSO assisted states to better assess and reach students without home digital access. For that work, CCSSO partnered with the national nonprofit EducationSuperHighway on its Digital Bridge K-12 project to develop a blueprint for how state leaders can facilitate this data collection.
As part of our continued collaboration, the Digital Bridge K-12 site will transition to CCSSO, while EducationSuperHighway focuses on building public-private partnerships to connect students who lack home broadband. CCSSO will ensure all of this critical work continues through state leadership to close digital equity gaps.
Looking ahead, CCSSO will lead conversations with key stakeholders to explore and develop new digital learning approaches and tools so states can set the conditions for every student and teacher to leverage technology and digital content to strengthen the teaching and learning experience.
“In many school districts, the rapid implementation of remote learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic was not ideal,” said Brent Engelman, the director of education data and information systems at CCSSO. “With a clear definition of success and plans focused on digital learning, states and school districts will have the tools to address educational disparities while protecting student privacy.”
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