Access to high-speed internet and challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic top the list of hurdles IT leadership departments have tackled this year

11 facts about K-12 IT leadership

Access to high-speed internet and challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic top the list of hurdles IT leadership departments have tackled this year

Broadband access and the ever-growing equity gap are among K-12 IT leaders’ top concerns, according to CoSN’s annual IT Leadership Survey.

The survey, released in collaboration with the Ed-Fi Alliance and other partners, is based on a national survey of nearly 400 school systems and provides a nuanced look at the challenges K-12 IT leadership has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were proud to once again work alongside the CoSN team in developing this report,” said Sean Casey, manager of strategic partnerships at the Ed-Fi Alliance, a nonprofit devoted to helping school districts and states achieve data interoperability. “At Ed-Fi, our goal is to define data standards to solve problems shared by all educators and to arm the learning community with useful information, as found in this report, for conscientious decision-making that leads to better outcomes for learners everywhere.”

1. Efforts to expand broadband access outside of school have increased dramatically. In 2020, 49 percent of respondents did not provide off-campus services, compared to just 5 percent in 2021, meaning 95 percent of respondents are providing off-campus services of some kind. The most popular strategy for increasing broadband access outside of school is deploying district-owned hotspots, with 70 percent of respondents taking this route–this compares to just 17 percent the prior year. Thirty percent work with their communities to provide Wi-Fi hotspots compared to 19 percent who did so in 2020, and 27 percent provide home access via free or subsidized programs to low-income families–more than double the prior year’s rate of 10 percent.

2. Concerns about digital equity have increased. Ninety-seven percent of respondents said their concerns about students’ home access to devices and the internet for remote learning purposes have increased since the pandemic. And for the first time since CoSN began this survey, respondents said digital equity is among their top concerns, ranking it as their third most pressing issue. The homework gap evolved into an “everything gap” for disadvantaged students.

3. Specific cybersecurity risks are generally underestimated even though cybersecurity and the privacy/security of student data are the top two technology priorities. For the second straight year, cybersecurity has ranked as the top priority for school district IT Leaders, with privacy and security of student data as number two. Yet when asked about perceived risks, the vast majority (84 percent) don’t rate any threats as high risk.

Laura Ascione

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