As the House and Senate move to conference to reconcile differences and align their respective bills reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), ITI – along with five other five tech trade associations – sent a joint letter to congressional committee leaders expressing our gratitude for their efforts to advance the measure. As they work to conclude the reauthorization, we emphasized the importance of maintaining the education technology and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) provisions currently included in S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, and H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, in the final conference report.
More specifically, we indicated our support for the S.1177 language that would provide students who are underrepresented in STEM fields with additional access to STEM programs, improve student technology literacy with the implementation of blended learning initiatives, and encourage professional development through the Innovation Technology Expands Children’s Horizons (I-Tech) program. The letter endorsed similar provisions within H.R. 5, including the ability of educational institutions to advance blended learning programs by developing new instructional models, purchasing digital instructional material and technology, and allocating resources for professional development opportunities for teachers and other school officials.
The tech sector is acutely aware that the current U.S. educational curriculum is inadequately aligned with the needs of our country’s increasingly digital economy. As U.S. students are graduating with more limited exposure to STEM and insufficient digital literacy skills, our most innovative companies are increasingly stymied – and unable to further boost the U.S. economy – because they lack access to bright human capital here at home. At a time when STEM occupations are expected to grow faster than any other field, the U.S. is projected to face a shortfall of 223,000 STEM workers by 2018. Furthermore, a recent study issued by Change the Equation found that despite spending approximately 35 hours per week using digital media, 58 percent of America’s youth possess limited abilities to solve problems using technology, ranking the U.S. last on the Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)’s technology test out of 19 countries.
We need to equip our schools with the ability to ensure American students are armed with the education, skills, and technological literacy they will need to successfully compete in the future economy—we encourage policymakers to give this issue the attention it deserves.