St. Paul, Arkansas principal Daisy Dyer Duerr was invited to speak before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on behalf of rural schools prior to their successful 3-2 vote to increase funding for the E-Rate program. The vote will ensure that an additional 408,000 in her state will have access to high-speed broadband Internet and Wi-Fi access in their classrooms.
Duerr, who was named an NASSP Digital Principal earlier this year, shared the story of her school’s success in using technology to greatly improve student achievement. When she became the principal of the 225-student K-12 campus in 2011, the high school was being targeted by the state for poor test scores in literacy and math, and the elementary grades had just been removed from Arkansas’ school improvement roles.
Through grants to purchase digital devices and intensive professional development for teachers, the school has started a bring-your-own-device program and the high school is no longer under state supervision. But with more than 80% of students on free and reduced meals and only 10% with Internet access at home, Duerr said that the E-Rate program allows her to provide accessibility they wouldn’t otherwise receive.
Even though Duerr’s students use digital devices on a daily basis, she noted that one of her biggest struggles has been bandwidth. She praised the FCC for their action to increase funding for the E-Rate program because not every rural school “has a little bulldog fighting for them.”
The order approved today by the FCC raises the spending cap on the E-Rate program from the current $2.4 billion to $3.9 billion annually. The commission also took steps to improve the overall administration of the program and maximize the options schools and libraries have for purchasing affordable high-speed broadband connectivity. For more information, go to: http://www.fcc.gov/e-rate-update.