North Carolina School Connectivity Program
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Program Overview

The School Connectivity Program is the culmination of several years of vision surrounding the 21st century classroom, and developing a North Carolina workforce poised to meet the challenge of a global economy. In 2006, year the e-NC Authority presented their "Developing Regional Networks" report to the General Assembly recommending the expansion of the North Carolina Research Education Network (NCREN) to the K-12 community. As a result in the 2006 session, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1741 allocating $6M non-recurring to expand the number of schools with broadband, selectively build out networks to rural and under performing schools, and develop a scalable model for statewide implementation. Since the funding is non-recurring, projects were selected that have the greatest impact on student achievement and highlight practices that will serve as the model for a sustained and funded program.

In 2007, the Connectivity Implementation Plan was presented to and approved by the State Board of Education. The program is centered around four essential elements:

  • 21st Century curriculum, instruction, assessments, and accountability
  • Technology tools in the classroom
  • Personnel and professional development
  • Connectivity, networks, and accountability

Bills in the House and Senate, and the Governor's biennium budget all recommended recurring funds for connectivity. The 2007 budget bill included a $12M recurring line item for the program. As a result of funding, the team is now working to finalize implementation plans, and begin the process of site and health assessments for LEA networks.
Planning Background

The Developing Regional Education Networks BETA report, May 2006, provides background for the development and funding of a statewide education network supporting preK-12 public schools.  The report recommends specific actions including:

  • Provide a common network backbone
  • Establish the NC Education Network
  • Plan a 3-year Implementation Timeline

For Fiscal Year 2007, the NC General Assembly appropriated $6M in Senate Bill 1741 to fund School Connectivity as an initial investment aimed at addressing the recommendations presented in the report.  Pursuant to the SB1741 School Connectivity legislation the State Board of Education, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office and the Office of the Governor initiated a School Connectivity Planning Project.  The Office of Information and Technology Services approved the School Connectivity Planning Project, DPI0739, in January 2007.  DPI0739 deliverables include, “A plan documenting a business framework and operational model, governance and advisory structure, e-Rate consortium plan and financials.”  In compliance with that deliverable commitment we offer this “School Connectivity Initiative Implementation and Operating Plan.

In developing this plan the School Connectivity Initiative project team based its work on the criteria established by the School Connectivity Advisory Group.  The team conducted site surveys with nearly 40 North Carolina Local Education Agencies (LEAs), interviewed representatives from existing K-12 statewide networks, discussed E-rate consortium possibilities with peer state and FCC leaders, and initiated four connectivity demonstration projects (pilots).  Through this due diligence process, cnnectivity-related considerations were explored, including:

  • A range of representative network architectures
  • Opportunity to leverage public-private partnerships
  • Best practice operating principles of sustained statewide education networks
  • Support for educational consortia
  • Applications and services enabled by connectivity
  • E-rate support considerations
  • LEA support models
  • Organizational models
This work was culminated with a detailed implementation plan of five broad strategies: connectivity, services, collaboration, organization, and funding.
Essential Elements For Future-Ready Schools

This diagram illustrates the relationships of the four essential elements as they relate to achieving 21st Century Outcomes as measured by Student Achievement. In future-ready schools (both brick and mortar and “virtual”) networked communities of educators, students and parents collaborate to achieve commonly shared 21st century outcomes.  These networked communities collaborate using a set of instructional and administrative tools delivered as online (web) services.  The School Connectivity Initiative is primarily focused on network access, and the personnel that provide for engineering and support of the infrastructure and service elements related to network connectivity. Specifically, through a common statewide network and supporting services the goal of achieving consistent and deterministic access to 21st century curriculum and instruction across all zip codes in North Carolina is attained. 

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