Before technology can transform education, schools must have sufficient Internet connectivity, and more than 40% of our schools still lack the high-speed, high-capacity Internet access they need. The Learning Accelerator's first major grant was to the non-profit group EducationSuperHighway, whose mission is to ensure every K-12 school in America has the Internet connectivity necessary for digital learning. In addition to the initial seed capital, TLA continues to provide EducationSuperHighway with strategic guidance and special-project funding.
Early Funding Allowed Rapid Scale
According to EducationSuperHighway CEO, Evan Marwell, TLA’s early investment of $500,000 allowed the organization to quickly scale its efforts, hire key employees and remain flexible to respond to the quickly shifting national focus on school connectivity. TLA’s initial funding also helped accelerate distribution of EducationSuperHighway’s national SchoolSpeedTest. To date EducationSuperHighway has collected nearly 800,000 tests from more than 33,000 school sites nationwide, representing the single largest repository of end-user bandwidth data from America's schools.
TLA’s early investment also built fundraising momentum for EducationSuperHighway, leading to significant investments from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Mark Zuckerberg’s Startup:Education fund, among others.
ConnectED - National Attention
The data collected from EducationSuperHighway’s SchoolSpeedTest helped lay the foundation for President Obama’s federal ConnectED initiative announced in June, 2013. EducationSuperHighway helped to secure (and TLA is helping to coordinate) several large, philanthropic gifts from some of the nation's top businesses to support ConnectED.
As part of the ConnectED initiative, the FCC was tasked to modernize the E-rate program. EducationSuperHighway worked to build widespread support for the reform, including releasing two landmark analyses. The first was Connecting America's Students: Opportunities for Action, an analysis based on E-rate funding requests from more than 1,000 school districts across 45 states. The report includes concrete recommendations for cost savings and program improvements. The second item was the LAN/Wi-Fi ConnectED Cost Model, developed in partnership with the Consortium for School Networking, to estimate the cost to equip every school in America with wireless access capable of supporting 1:1 digital learning.
EducationSuperHighway’s work culminated in a historic vote in July, 2014 by the FCC to modernize the E-rate program. This update will phase out legacy services, provide $5 billion over five years to upgrade the wireless infrastructure in America’s schools, increase data transparency, and simplify the E-rate application process.
Lowering Broadband Costs - State Action
Many school districts are overpaying for bandwidth, due in part to the lack of transparency around broadband costs. EducationSuperHighway spearheaded an unprecedented nationwide collection of cost data and delivered a first-of-its-kind national bandwidth pricing report, as well as a tailored pricing analyses. From New York to California, state governments began taking notice and in recent months the Governors of Virginia and Arkansas joined with EducationSuperHighway to launch the first intensive state pricing projects to drive down costs for school Internet.
Building District Resources
TLA helped fund and coordinate EducationSuperHighway’s Internet network upgrade guide for school district leaders. Network Essentials for Superintendents represents one of EducationSuperHighway’s first “self-serve” tools for districts to manage the upgrade process. EducationSuperHighway has also launched a District Network Upgrade Coaching program to work with selected school districts to identify challenges to accessing adequate bandwidth and develop targeted upgrade strategies.
EducationSuperHighway continues to make remarkable progress in its mission to bring Internet connectivity to our nation’s schools. “Beyond the early financial support, TLA has been a tremendously valuable partner for strategy, connections, and for amplifying our work to broaden our impact,” said Evan Marwell. The Learning Accelerator is proud to have been an early investor and we look forward to our ongoing partnership.
For more information, visit EducationSuperHighway.