ISTE Policy Principles

The following principles guide ISTE’s positions on, and objectives for, many public policy areas.

  • Technology is an essential element in the design of effective learning and teaching environments.
  • Digital fluency and citizenship are instrumental in the academic success of students and their preparation for college and careers.
  • Professional learning for educators must include strategies for seamlessly integrating technology into the learning process.
  • All students should have equitable access to broadband and devices to support learning at school and home.

To achieve our mission, ISTE will be a leader in educating policymakers and advocating for:

  • The ISTE Standards to serve as a framework to guide effective learning, teaching, and leading in the digital age.
  • Professional learning communities and increased opportunities for educators
  • Dedicated funding streams and maximum federal, state, and local investments for digital learning, including support for devices, connectivity, learning resources and professional learning for educators.
  • Supporting equitable access for all learners with broadband and devices regardless of geographic location and socio-economic levels.
  • Student data privacy laws and regulations that protect sensitive student information while allowing students and educators to reap the benefits of digital learning.

ISTE positions on key policy issues

The following key issues are pivotal to advancing ISTE’s mission and vision.

  • Adult education
  • After-school education
  • Broadband
  • College-and-career readiness standards
  • Computer science and computational thinking
  • Digital citizenship
  • Educator preparation and effectiveness
  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization
  • Funding for digital learning
  • Maker movement
  • Privacy and security
  • Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
  • Special education
  • Workforce development

Our vision

The vision of ISTE is a world where all learners thrive, achieve and contribute.

Our mission

As the creator and steward of the definitive education technology standards, ISTE’s mission is to empower learners to flourish in a connected world by cultivating a passionate professional learning community, linking educators and partners, leveraging knowledge and expertise, advocating for strategic policies, and continually improving learning and teaching.

Purpose of the policy platform

The Policy Platform is a high-level, broad framework that will serve as a guide for the organization’s policy and advocacy efforts. Read more.

Adult education

The adult learner population comprises a broad array of individuals, including adults pursuing a high school diploma or high school equivalency degree, adults seeking continuing education opportunities to update their skills for today’s workforce, and immigrants who are improving their English literacy skills. Technology can and does facilitate and support adult learners.

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ISTE position: ISTE supports adult education policy that leverages digital tools to assist adult learners in acquiring the skills and knowledge they need to work and live in today’s high-tech society.

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After-school education

For many students who lack home technology or internet access, the school day may be the only opportunity they have to learn to use technology and navigate the online and digital worlds. After-school programs help fill the gap for these students by providing the online and technology access they lack at home, as well as offering practical and engaging technology-oriented courses on topics such as website development, coding and robotics.

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ISTE position: ISTE supports investments in after-school and informal learning programs, particularly those that offer effective digital learning opportunities.

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Broadband in schools and at home

World leaders recognize that high-speed broadband is a requirement for a strong national economy and are investing in broadband deployment. A key component for future economic success in this interconnected world is for the United States to ensure robust and reliable broadband access for students and educators at school and at home.

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While the U.S. E-Rate program provides a great deal of support for school infrastructure needs, students increasingly require broadband access outside school hours so they can conduct research, create and complete projects using web applications and online tools, view lectures, and communicate and collaborate with their teachers and peers. Many students, especially those from low-income homes or rural or remote areas, lack access to broadband at home––an issue known as the “homework gap”.

Schools across the United States require robust and reliable broadband connectivity. However, most schools do not have the network capacity to meet the demands of today’s digital environment. The historic $1.5 billion annual funding cap increase for the E-Rate program in 2014 will be instrumental in boosting connectivity to under-connected schools across the country. The 2016 order modernizing Lifeline takes several important steps that will help improve Internet access for low-income and rural students.

ISTE positions:

  • ISTE supported the FCC’s modernization of the E-Rate program and permanent increase in its funding cap.
  • ISTE is committed to informing members on how the new E-Rate program benefits their schools and districts.
  • ISTE will continue to lead efforts to protect this program and make changes to the program as warranted. ISTE supported changes to the Lifeline program that allowed broadband as an eligible service, that required Lifeline mobile devices to come equipped with WiFi chips, and that phased in tethering capability for most mobile broadband devices.
  • ISTE supports additional federal legislative and regulatory efforts that aim to provide broadband access at home for all students, regardless of socio-economic status or geographic location.
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College and career ready standards

The ISTE Standards for learning, teaching and leading in the digital age are an important tool for educators as they continue along the path of implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or their college and career ready standards at the state level. The ISTE Standards help educators build a firm foundation for teaching with technology and further the development of many of skills, such as problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration, set forth by college and career ready standards. In addition, the ISTE Standards focus on development of the digital skills that are a prerequisite for success in the workplace. Technology, used effectively, can help all students meet and exceed the rigorous learning goals embedded in state standards and demonstrate success on the accompanying online assessments. 

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ISTE positions:

  • ISTE supports policies that incorporate the critical role digital learning plays in achieving the goals of rigorous state-level college and career ready standards.
  • ISTE supports investments in infrastructure, tools, professional learning and personnel to successfully prepare for and administer online assessments linked to rigorous state-level college and career ready standards.
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Computer science and computational thinking

Computational thinkers across the globe are the creators, designers and developers of the technology tools and systems that are now contributing to major advances in nearly every field of human understanding and endeavor. To participate in computing’s limitless potential for innovation, students must gain the foundational computational thinking skills needed to take full advantage of rapid changes in technology. Educational systems must prepare young learners to become computational thinkers who understand how today’s digital tools can help solve tomorrow’s problems.

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ISTE positions:

  • ISTE supports policies that bring computational thinking into the curriculum and provide opportunities for all students to have access to computer science courses prior to graduation.
  • ISTE supports policies that help educators meet the ISTE Standards for Computer Science Educators, which set professional standards for computer science instruction for inservice and preservice educators.
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Digital citizenship

ISTE values digital citizenship skills and has included a digital citizenship indicator in all five sets of the ISTE Standards. In today’s digital world it is critical that all students gain the digital literacy skills they need to be productive, ethical and responsible digital citizens. Ensuring equitable access to digital tools and resources, addressing the diverse needs of all learners, and providing students with the skills and knowledge to practice safe, legal and responsible use of information and technology must be a priority for our nation’s education system. All educators, regardless of role, must model behavior that recognizes the global, social, ethical, legal, and human issues and responsibilities related to an evolving digital culture.

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ISTE position:

ISTE supports policies that promote digital citizenship in schools across the globe, ensure equitable technology access for all students and address their diverse needs. With proper access and opportunities to practice digital literacy across the curriculum, students will graduate with the skills and understanding necessary to practice safe, legal, ethical and responsible use of information technology, be able to collaborate and communicate with peers, and be productive and lifelong learners.

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Educator preparation and effectiveness

Digital learning provides educators with a wealth of tools and resources for engaging students and personalizing learning in ways never before possible. Effectively using these devices and evaluating and implementing resources for learning and teaching requires ongoing, sustained and high-quality professional learning opportunities for all educators regardless of their role. Preservice educator preparation programs must provide incoming educators with the skills they need to lead a digital classroom. Today’s educators must update and maintain their skills to effectively integrate technology into the learning environment. Educational leaders need the vision and skills to lead digital age learning transformation and evaluate teachers in a digital learning culture.

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ISTE positions:

  • ISTE supports policies that update teacher preparation programs and focus on the intersection of pedagogy, content and technology skills.
  • ISTE supports policies that strive to ensure all educators have opportunities to continually update and maintain their digital learning skills through ongoing, sustainable and scalable technology professional learning.
  • ISTE supports policies that enable educational leaders to gain the expertise to lead digital learning transformation and evaluate teachers’ digital learning skills.
  • ISTE recommends that teacher evaluation instruments measure educators’ abilities to effectively implement digital tools and resources in the learning environment.
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Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

In December of 2015, President Obama reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by signing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law. The new education law eliminates the most troublesome provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and returns authority and flexibility over many educational issues to states.

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ESSA includes major education technology provisions within the flexible block grant under Title IV, Part A known as the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (SSAEG). Under this flex grant, each district will receive a poverty-based allocation, much of which can be spent on technology, blended learning and tech professional development. Additionally, districts may be able to expend Title IV, Part A dollars on solutions to bridge the so-called “homework gap” – which describes the problem of students lacking any or adequate Internet connectivity in their homes.

ISTE positions:

  • ISTE strongly supports a full investment in the new Title IV, Part A block grant which would allow school districts to use 60% of funds received for education technology purposes.
  • ISTE will lead efforts to develop clear regulations implementing Title IV, Part A provisions, focused on allowing broad usage of funds for proven professional development activities and for bridging the “homework gap.”
  • ISTE will continue to support opportunities, particularly through the ESSA rulemaking process, to change existing programs in ways that break down silos and enhance collaboration between educators as they implement digital learning solutions and advance student academic achievement.
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Funding for digital learning

Funding for digital learning is a crucial investment that must be made at all levels of government in order to provide access to integrated digital learning environments to all students, regardless of geographic location or socio-economic situation. There has been no direct federal funding for digital learning in the United States since fiscal year 2011, and not all states explicitly allocate funding for this purpose. Strong investments in network infrastructure, digital tools and resources—including professional learning for educators and open educational resources (OERs)–– are needed to ensure that all students graduate with the skills and knowledge to succeed in higher education and compete in the modern workforce and global economy.

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Beyond access to the digital tools and resources, it is critical that educators receive the professional learning opportunities they need––through federal and state funding streams––to choose and integrate all quality online resources and tools into the classroom to benefit all students.

As most states now use online assessments, additional investments are required for educators and administrators to successfully implement, administer and prepare students for the rigor of these assessments.

ISTE positions:

  • ISTE will advocate for the full funding of the new ESSA Title IV, Part A in annual appropriations.
  • ISTE will advocate at the state and district levels for maximum use of federal and state funds to implement high-quality digital learning initiatives and strong investments for professional development for educators on the successful use of technology in classrooms.
  • ISTE supports its affiliate organizations (U.S. and non-U.S.) in securing funding for digital learning.
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Maker movement

As a global technological and creative learning revolution, the maker movement has exciting opportunities and vast implications for education. New innovations, such as 3D printing, robotics and wearable computing, are being developed at an unprecedented pace. The maker movement promotes opportunities to advance student learning by engaging with a collaborative community of global problem solvers.

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ISTE position:

ISTE supports the efforts and experiences of those involved in the maker movement, which allows educators to capitalize on the best student-centered teaching practices to engage all learners.

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Privacy and security

As nations wrestle with balancing laws to protect citizens’ privacy against keeping access to tools and information open, student data privacy is becoming an area of global interest. In the United States, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a bill that was enacted in 1974, governs student protections. FERPA governs the rights of parents regarding student education records (for students under age 18). FERPA’s 2008 regulatory update permitted educational agencies and institutions to outsource certain services and functions to outside parties, but continued to hold educational agencies and institutions responsible for ensuring that these outside parties do not maintain, use or disclose education records in any manner beyond what they are told by the agency or institution. With the advances in digital learning tools and online resources, many policymakers and school personnel believe it is time to review the existing FERPA regulations to ensure they adequately protect students in the digital age.

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ISTE positions:

  • ISTE is steadfast in its support for protecting student privacy and that school networks are secure globally.
  • ISTE supports U.S. and global policies that balance the benefits of personalized learning, data-driven decision making and innovation with the priority to protect student information.
  • ISTE supports U.S. and global policies that educate school personnel about the legal requirements for protecting student privacy, precautions they must take and ways to strengthen school networks.
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Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)

The nature of STEM careers has changed. Today’s scientists, mathematicians, engineers and tech workers spend a significant portion of their time collaborating and communicating with colleagues across the globe and using simulations and other technology tools to achieve their goals. STEM curriculum must evolve and align with the modern methods that today’s mathematicians, scientists, engineers and technology professionals use in their daily work. 

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ISTE’s positions:

  • ISTE supports efforts to graduate more students in STEM disciplines and to fund STEM curricula in PK-12 schools.
  • ISTE supports policies that encourage informal learning opportunities that combine STEM disciplines with hands-on making to build creativity, communication and collaborations skills.
  • ISTE supports policies that ensure that the use and implementation of modern digital tools and content are an integral part of STEM curricula.
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Special education needs

Technology provides important support to students across the globe with special education needs, allowing those with cognitive and physical disabilities to access resources and gain skills that were previously unattainable for this population. Accessible hardware and software based on universal design principles has assisted all learners, while touch-fueled technologies, such as interactive whiteboards and tablets, have helped students across the spectrum grasp concepts and communicate more effectively.

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ISTE’s position:

ISTE will advocate for an increased focus on technology for students with special education needs and reinforcement of universal design principles.

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Workforce development

Technology is an integral part of almost every job or profession today. Yet each year statistics indicate that U.S. high school and college graduates lack the skills necessary to gain entry to today’s increasingly high-tech jobs. The preparation of students for these careers—also referred to as career and technical education, or workforce development—is of the utmost importance.

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ISTE position:

ISTE supports efforts to ensure that students develop the technology skills that will prepare them to succeed in today’s global economy. To achieve this goal, ISTE supports efforts to modernize career and technical education through the integration of technology and digital resources into the classroom, the expansion of experiential learning opportunities, and pathways to trade and industry certifications and credentials that lead students to success in high-tech, high-demand industries.

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