Cisco – with more than 15 years of experience in implementing technology solutions in K-12 schools — strongly supports the goals of President Obama’s initiative to connect more schools and libraries to the Internet, and at faster speeds.

We understand that technology is changing the world.  Our children aren’t just competing against the kids down the street for a spot in college or a job, but with children around the world.  So our children need to have cutting-edge technology in their hands and access to the vast amounts of information at their fingertips.

That’s where the federal “E-rate” program comes in.  E-rate provides discounts for Internet access and internal networking for schools and libraries across America.  Since its inception 15 years ago, E-rate has helped connect over 100,000 schools to the Internet in all 50 states.  Its impact on the education of our nation’s school children has been nothing short of incredible.

The most effective technology programs supported by the E-rate have implemented high-speed Internet connections to schools, combined with internal networking such as Wi-Fi, to connect teachers, children, and devices in the classroom.

Some districts have embraced technology and put mobile and collaborative devices in the hands of students.  And, outcomes are improving as a result. In the Katy School District in Texas, for instance, performance on math tests increased from 70th to 90th percentile following adoption of mobile technologies and devices. Similarly, in the Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina, the district increased levels of competency in all subject areas from 60 percent to over 85 percent, and graduation rates increased by 22 percent.

But in too many schools and school districts today, the promise of connected classrooms is just that – a promise, and not the reality.

That’s why the President’s focus on the issue is so welcome.  The fact is that more action on this front is needed.

Cisco has called on the FCC and other policymakers to set a bold goal – to ensure that every school in America has access to high-speed broadband – of 2 gigabits per second or greater – within 5 years.

Additionally, current E-rate rules — which fund Internet connectivity first as “Priority 1” services and then send the leftovers to fund “Priority 2” networking inside the schools — no longer make sense.  Internet access is an important element of a network, but school districts have to be able to access content on their own servers for distribution within the district.  And that content is meaningless if it cannot be delivered to students and teachers through efficient in-building and district-wide networks.  So we have called on policymakers to eliminate the outdated distinction between Priority 1 and Priority 2.

These recommendations came as part of Cisco’s top-to-bottom review of our experience with the E-rate program, in which we made 5 recommendations on how to modernize and reform the program.

This is part of Cisco’s strong commitment to K-12 education, STEM education, and technology training for students who want careers in the technology industry.    Here are just a few examples of the work that we’re doing in education.

  • Cisco Networking Academy teaches students to design, build, maintain, and secure computer networks to prepare them for ongoing education, employment and careers with 21st Century skills.  Since 1997, Cisco has contributed more than $100 million in value to deliver Networking Academy curriculum to K-12 students in the United States.  Today, Networking Academy curriculum is offered in more than 600 public K-12 schools across the country.  Worldwide, more than 5 million students in 170 countries have participated in Networking Academy since 1997.  This is part of Cisco’s $200 million a year in-kind contribution to Networking Academies worldwide.
  • Since 2008, Cisco and the Cisco Foundation have provided over $20 million in cash donations and over $21 million in in-kind product donations to nonprofit organizations supporting teacher training and technology based solutions serving K-12 students in the United States, for a total of $41.6 million.  For example, Cisco supports the New Teacher Center’s award-winning Teacher Assessment Tool project and its online mentoring solution to accelerate new teacher effectiveness.
  • Over the past 10 years, Cisco has provided over $3M in cash and in-kind product support to the MIND Research Institute’s ST Math program, which helps students of all backgrounds achieve proficiency in math.  Currently available in the U.S., the platform is mapped to all 50 state standards, and has served over 600,000 students so far. In three Cisco-funded pilot sites in underserved schools in California, Virginia, and Arizona, the program has proved to be very successful — leading to double to triple the increase in proficiency over two years — and we will support expansion of the program to Boston, New York, and other cities in the country during the coming year.
  • Cisco is also a founding partner of US2020 – a Presidential Initiative that invites companies to engage 20% of their workforce to volunteer 20+ hours of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math mentoring a year by 2020.  So far, Cisco volunteers have already logged 3000 hours toward this program, helping students in San Jose, RTP, and other communities in which Cisco operates.
  • Additionally, After Hurricane Katrina, Cisco provided $80 million dollars to fund the 21st Century Schools initiative and provide the latest networking technology to rebuilt schools in Mississippi and Louisiana.  In Jefferson Parish, the math scores of 8th graders increased by 16 percent between 2005 and 2009.   Significant gains were also seen in English, Science, and Social Studies at all levels.

There’s no denying that technology is changing the way that teachers teach and students learn.

This creates a major opportunity to take a step forward on education.

Cisco stands ready to work with the FCC, Congress, and the Obama Administration in continuing to find ways to transform K-12 education through technology.


Renee Patton

Former Global Director of Education and Healthcare

Global Industry Solutions Group