The National School Boards Association (NSBA), the nonprofit federation of state school board associations across the country, is moving its annual technology conference from New Orleans to Dallas this fall, the organization announced yesterday.

NSBA no longer will hold its 2006 T+L² (Technology, Leadership, and Learning) Conference in New Orleans from Nov. 1-3. The major educational technology conference instead will be held in Dallas, Texas, from Nov. 8-10. NSBA said the difficult decision not to hold the conference in the hurricane-ravaged city was based on the needs of the organization, its attendees, and vendors.

“I used to live in South Louisiana. I know how much they need to rebuild their economic base,” said Ann Flynn, Director of Education Technology for NSBA. “Ultimately, we … needed to do what we felt would be best for our own economic longevity. After many conversations with exhibitors [and] vendors, our concern was that New Orleans would not quite be ready [by November].”

In addition, Flynn said, NSBA would rather hold its conference in the city at a time when local educators can fully participate in the conference.

“We rely on the local support of educators, city and state, when holding a conference,” Flynn explained. “They have many things on their plate right now [i.e., the reconstruction of the city and its education system]. We feel like the local schools should be more robust, and [their personnel be more] able to attend, and have conferences on their mind, rather than the issues they have to attend. We really felt that this was the best possible solution.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the T+L² Conference, making it the second oldest ed-tech conference at the national level behind the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE’s) National Educational Computing Conference (NECC), which debuted in 1979. As recently as 2004, however, the fate of future T+L² events was in doubt. NSBA officials say a rebound in paid attendance at that 2004 meeting was the only thing that kept the show in business for 2005 and beyond (see story: http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=5320).

Don Knezek, chief executive officer of ISTE, a nonprofit organization that aims to improve teaching and learning by advancing the effective use of technology in K-12 and teacher education, said he can sympathize with the NSBA’s decision.

“The last three years or so have seen the Adequate Yearly Progress figures required by the No Child Left Behind Act threatening individual school and district budgets. Other accountability and economic issues also have made it more difficult to attract school boards to technology conferences over the past few years,” Knezek said. “That’s where I think the challenge has come for the T+L² Conference. As people … have been seeing that you need technology to meet NCLB requirements, a comeback has started to take place. But I think these conferences still need to gain heavier attendance and a higher priority. Technology is certainly a concern of administrators, but it’s dropped from first or second to fourth or fifth because of state budget deviations.”

Knezek continued: “If [T+L²] were as strong a conference as NECC, then they could take a chance and support New Orleans. [But] if I were an administrator for NSBA right now, I would probably have found a more stable venue for the conference. It has no reflection on the need to support New Orleans. I think the T+L² Conference is in a unique situation–the school technology funding recovery is starting, but isn’t on the exponential curve it needs to be on. It’s [still] a conference at risk, and I don’t think it’s a wise decision for administrators of that conference to take a chance–[and] possibly in some ways compromise their comeback–to support the needs of New Orleans, which we all agree are great.”

In October, NSBA announced that it would change the venue of its 66th annual general conference from New Orleans to Chicago. That conference runs from April 8-11.

To support the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast region, NSBA says it has donated more than $10,000 in cash and other supplies, and it is working closely with the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama state school boards associations to assess the critical needs of local school districts. In addition, NSBA says it has been deeply involved at the federal level in strongly advising Congress and U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings to approve adequate relief money for education and to send those funds directly to local school districts in the affected areas.

Through a federation of state organizations, NSBA reportedly represents 95,000 local school board members throughout the United States. The organization represents the interests of school boards in working with federal government agencies and national organizations that affect education, and it provides vital information and services to state associations of school boards throughout the nation.

NSBA says its T+L² Conference is co-sponsored by more than 25 leading education organizations. Last fall, the conference reportedly attracted more than 2,200 school leaders from throughout the United States, as well as internationally. The conference is designed to highlight the many effective ways to improve school performance and student achievement through the judicious use of technology across instructional, administrative, and parental outreach applications.

“We’re actually quite excited about going back to Dallas,” said Flynn. “The conference was held in that city for its first eight years. If there’s a city where we should be celebrating a major milestone [such as the 20th anniversary of T+L²], it would be Dallas.”

Flynn said the conference has been scheduled to run in New Orleans in 2008.

“We were already contracted to go to Nashville in 2007, which is why it was not just a one-year postponement,” she said.

Links:

NSBA’s T+L² Conference
http://www.nsba.org/t+l

International Society for Technology in Education http://www.iste.org