Recently my children have been taking their online student assessment testing. Like many parents in Oklahoma, I was concerned to learn that testing in my children’s school district was suspended due to interruptions. While the issue was due to problems at the testing company, it reminded me that for online testing to work, there are multiple things that have to work together in order for it to be a success.
One area of concern shared by many E-rate applicants is whether they will have the bandwidth needed in order for the students to take the tests. While that wasn’t the issue with this week’s Oklahoma problem, it has been an issue for many other schools. Many times I have heard educators describe what their district has to go through in order to free up bandwidth for student testing. Administrators and office staff have to get off the Internet, only one school and/or grade can test at a time, and the work-arounds go on.
In this age of digital learning and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), bandwidth is at a premium in most schools. The E-rate program has played a major role in bringing the Internet to our schools and this will continue. Over the next few months, the FCC will be preparing and announcing their modernization plan for the program.
The role of the Internet and increasing the bandwidth at our schools has dominated the E-rate modernization conversation. However, this is only one piece in the E-rate puzzle. Students and teachers need to have the infrastructure in place in order to best utilize any increase in bandwidth capability. More than anyone else, schools are in the best position to plan for the future and build the infrastructure that they need.
The FCC is uniquely positioned to modernize the E-rate program in such a way as to give applicants the ability to provide teachers and educators with more robust Internet access and put even more online tools at their disposal. Give applicants the ability to plan and choose what works best for their students and teachers. The budget system proposed by Funds For Learning gives this to schools and will allow applicants to plan and direct E-rate funding to the services or equipment needed to build upon what is currently in place. By providing flexibility in how to best direct E-rate funding, the FCC will be working alongside and partnering with applicants, rather than trying to determine for them how funding would be best used.
As we move forward with the modernization of the E-rate program, Henry Ford may have said it best, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”