In 2012 I noticed a problem at my daughter’s school. Even though it’s a school with plenty of resources in tech-savvy San Francisco, the internet access was slow and unusable for truly innovative digital learning. I was surprised. How could a school in one of the most technology-focused areas in the country still be so far behind in connectivity? What did that mean for the many schools across the US that are under-resourced, or more isolated?
A recent Gates study found that students are making significantly greater gains in math and reading over the last two years than a virtual control group made up of similar students at comparable schools. With reliable internet access in the classroom, personalized learning and digital tools can maximize student success. EducationSuperHighway was founded to ensure all students in America, regardless of their zip code, have robust, reliable high-speed Internet access to support digital learning. What we learned through our SchoolSpeedTest partnerships in 30 states—and more than 800,000 speed tests—is that close to 65% of schools in the U.S. need an upgrade. So we set out to determine how to make those upgrades happen.
We learned how critical superintendent involvement is for a successful network upgrade. Effective network improvement projects are complex, and require educational alignment, careful budgeting, and stakeholder management. As with all major district initiatives, superintendents are vital to ensuring that the money and time spent on the network is spent efficiently – and for the ultimate benefit of students.
That is why we work to provide school district leaders the information they need to lead successful Internet network upgrades. We recently published a free guide, Network Essentials for Superintendents, specifically designed to help superintendents effectively implement broadband upgrade projects.
Network Essentials for Superintendents was developed based on the research we have done with hundreds of districts across the country to better understand the roadblocks to connectivity. We have heard about budget concerns, challenges with broadband availability, pricing, network reliability and maintenance issues—and, most importantly, we have learned how districts have overcome these barriers.
Based on the best practices of district leaders and our own data-driven research, Network Essentials for Superintendents is a guide for how to kick-off and lead successful network upgrades. Superintendents do not need to be network technology experts—but gaining a basic understanding of school district network setup, bandwidth options, and budgeting strategies makes for a more efficient and effective upgrade project.
We hope that Network Essentials can serve as a catalyst for district network upgrades across the country. Digital learning can transform education, but first district leaders must lay the groundwork by ensuring their schools have the Internet infrastructure necessary to meet the demands of digital education and a more connected future.
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Evan Marwell is CEO & Founder of EducationSuperHighway. Follow Evan on Twitter with @emarwell.