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Yarmuth Launches Digital Promise Initiative at White House

(Washington, DC) Today at the White House, Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) announced the launch of Digital Promise, a new national initiative focused on researching and implementing cutting-edge technologies in education and job training. Alongside U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Yarmuth spoke at the White House about the groundbreaking project.

“Technology has revolutionized so many aspects of modern American life, from the way we communicate to how we conduct business, from the way the economy functions to how our nation protects itself. But we haven’t yet scratched the surface in applying technology to education,” said Congressman Yarmuth. “Digital Promise changes all that.”

The launch of Digital Promise creates a new national, non-profit national research center within the Department of Education to improve and modernize the way technology is used in the classroom, working with leading researchers, entrepreneurs, and schools to identify and implement effective learning technologies. The center will finance research, development and demonstration of technologies to improve the effectiveness of national education, training, and lifelong learning efforts.

Digital Promise will receive startup funds from the Department of Education [as well as the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation].  It will be overseen by board made up of prominent leaders in education and technology appointed by Secretary Duncan based on recommendations from the House of Representatives and United States Senate. Shae Hopkins, Executive Director and CEO of KET, was appointed to the board at Congressman Yarmuth’s recommendation.

“In the 20th century there was a direct correlation between America leading the world in education and also in innovation, technology, and economically; that in an increasingly globalized marketplace, with other countries competing more successfully across the board, digital promise can ensure that this generation of American children is the most educated the world had ever known and by extension, the next generation of American adults will be the best trained most capable citizens to lead the world in the 21st century and beyond,” Congressman Yarmuth added.

Shortly after arriving in Congress in 2007, Yarmuth introduced the Revolutionizing Education Through Digital Investment Act – landmark legislation which would create the Digital Promise project. As a member of the Education and Labor Committee, Yarmuth pushed to include Digital Promise in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 and secured funding for the initiative shortly thereafter.

Digital Promise will focus on three key challenges:

  •  Identifying Breakthrough Technologies.For years, researchers have been working on developing educational software that is as effective as a personal tutor.  Preliminary results from a DARPA/Navy “digital tutor” project suggest that we can reduce the time required to become an expert in IT from years to months.  Achieving similar results in subjects such as math would transform K-12 education.  Digital Promise will begin its work by partnering with technology firms and researchers to map the R&D landscape, identifying opportunities for similar breakthroughs in learning from cradle through a career.
  •  Learning faster what's working and what's not.Internet startups do rapid evaluations of their sites, running test after test to continually improve their services. When it comes to education, R&D cycles can take years, producing results that are out of date the minute they're released.  Digital Promise will work with researchers and entrepreneurs to develop new approaches for rapidly evaluating new products.
  • Transforming the market for learning technologies.With more than 14,000 school districts, and a outdated procurement system, it’s difficult for entrepreneurs to break into the market, and it’s also tough to prove that their products can deliver meaningful results.  Meanwhile, the amount we invest in R&D in K-12 education is estimated at just 0.2% of total spending on K-12 education, compared to 10-20% of revenues spent on R&D in many knowledge-intensive industries such as software development and biotech. Digital Promise will work with school districts to create “smart demand” that drives private sector investment in innovation.