Great Expectations, Leveraging Americas Investment in Educational Technology

January 1, 2002

In February 2000, the Benton Foundation, collaborating with the Center for Children and Technology, released The E-Rate in America: A Tale of Four Cities. This report, made possible also through the generous support of the Joyce Foundation, is a continuation of that joint work.

The E-Rate in America was one of the first studies of the impact of the then-new federal program, tracing the ideas and political battles that led to its establishment and recounting the practical issues confronting school districts as they sought to benefit from E-Rate resources. Also included in that work were questionnaires designed to help school officials begin the process of assessing technology use in their schools. As part of The E-Rate in America, four large urban districts (Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee) were studied in fall 1999.

In this second phase of our E-Rate work, the Benton Foundation and the Center for Children and Technology (CCT) continued our investigation into the new program and developed new tools to assist teachers, administrators and policymakers. We have compiled our findings and observations into this new report with different chapters written by experts in the field of educational technology.

The first chapter, "E-Rate 102," by Norris Dickard, recounts some of the E-Rate program's growing pains and new policy challenges facing it, drawing on a dialogue that took place at two national policy roundtable events in May 2001, and through interviews with key policymakers.

In the second chapter, "The E-Rate Takes Hold, But Slowly," Donna Harrington-Lueker, of the Education Writers Association (EWA), reports on lessons that emerged from interviews with administrators, teachers and technology researchers in the same four cities studied in The E-Rate in America.

The third and fourth chapters, by Margaret Honey and her colleagues at the Center for Children and Technology, address the timely issue of measuring return on investment in a policy climate focused on accountability.

The fourth chapter presents case studies in which CCT researchers worked in individual classrooms with teachers in the cities of Chicago and Milwaukee. Together, they developed assessment tools and guidelines to help teachers measure learning gains as students learned to use various information technology tools for research and presentation - compiled into an "evaluation toolkit," available online and as a supplementary publication to this report.

In the last chapter, Harvard University's Chris Dede introduces his "state policy framework" and outlines the need for a more coordinated and systematic approach to policymaking around educational technology.