LEAD Panel Backs Obama’s ConnectED Efforts

Echoing President Barack Obama's call to deliver schools broadband and wireless internet access within five years, an independent panel has concluded that the slow penetration of technology into the classroom is harming children and produces poorer academic outcomes in American students. The report by the LEAD Commission outlined a five-point plan that could see universal internet adoption in schools come on an even faster schedule than the one set forth by the President's ConnectED initiative.

The Associated Press summarized the preliminary findings in advance, but the full report is due to be made public in the coming weeks.

Ensuring that schools have access to the internet has been a long, continuous collaboration from stakeholders in academia, politics and the private sector:

The commission was created in March 2012 to research the state of and figure out how to speech the introduction of technology in U.S. schools. The president of Columbia University and a former U.S. education secretary are among the panel's four co-chairmen.

Last week, Obama visited a Mooresville, N.C., middle school to see the digital learning that takes place there, including how students do their work exclusively on laptops. He also called on the Federal Communications Commission to use a program that pays for Internet access in schools and libraries through a surcharge on telephone bills to meet his goal of connecting 99 percent of students to super-fast Internet within five years, or by sometime in 2018.

Although the majority of American schools already have internet connections, penetration has been especially slow in rural schools and schools that serve primarily low-income students. Even schools that are wired are often forced to make do with broadband speeds that are too slow and aren't suitable for up-to-date digital tools that require interactivity and an always-on connection.

The commission joins in with the President's pleas to the FCC to leverage its E-Rate program to fund broadband expansions to schools that aren't yet equipped with it. According to the FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, the process will get under way as early as this summer.

The commission's other recommendations include:

—Speeding up the adoption of digital curricula, including by creating an independent certification program to identify approved, high-quality programs.

—Highlighting the work of model schools, such as in Mooresville, to encourage other schools.

—Spending more money to train teachers to use digital curricula and other technologies.

Gene Sperling, an economic policy adviser to Obama, said the blueprint is an important step toward the president's goal of "bringing classrooms across America into the 21st century and allowing our students to engage in the individualized digital learning that will help them compete in today's economy."

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