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

4. Districts are providing many new services. The overwhelming majority (97 percent) of districts provided new services specifically designed to address pandemic issues. Almost three-quarters (74 percent) conducted contact tracing, 67 percent provided cleaning services for devices, and 51 percent tested temperatures of students and faculty. While a majority (53 percent) provided remote counseling to address students’ SEL needs, less than a quarter (23 percent) provided counseling for teachers. About a third (34 percent) provided telehealth options and 29 percent offered COVID testing.

5. Parental engagement has changed during the pandemic. The overwhelming majority (95 percent) of districts have changed how they engage with parents during the pandemic, including increasing the frequency of communication, expanding the number of communication channels used, enhancing an existing parent portal, and providing more opportunities for two-way parent/teacher communication.

6. Department silos identified as a bigger challenge. IT Leaders have identified the same top three challenges for many years. Budget constraints consistently tops the list, followed by lack of access to PD and the existence of silos. This year, the existence of silos in the school system moved up in rank to the number two slot from number three. Silos make it difficult to work across functional areas. Yet breaking down silos is precisely what was needed during the pandemic in order to be flexible and effective.

7. A majority of districts have achieved FCC’s long-term bandwidth goals at school. For the first time, a majority (61 percent) of respondents reported access to 1 Gbps per 1,000 students in all their schools—up from just under 50 percent last year. The percentage of districts that haven’t achieved the FCC long-term goal for any of their schools has shrunk from 38 percent in 2019 to 21 percent this year. While these results indicate progress around at-school connectivity, it is important to keep in mind that these targets were set back in 2014.

8. Slow internet connections are the top challenges to remote teaching and learning. While families’ inability to access the internet was cited as a top challenge, it ranked third after problems with connections that were too slow for livestreaming (ranked number one) and connections that were too slow for multiple users (ranked second).T

9. Virtually all districts faced challenges with video conferencing. The overwhelming majority (94 percent) of districts faced challenges with video conferencing as they pivoted to remote teaching and learning during the pandemic. The top challenge, with 66 percent, was bandwidth. Security breaches followed with 43 percent and then privacy with 38 percent.

10. Districts struggled to provide remote support. Remote instruction required districts to also provide technical support to students and families. However, most IT departments (61 percent) were not prepared to do so. The strain this extra responsibility put on staffing was highlighted in many of the comments in the open-ended section of the survey.

11. IT leadership is overwhelmingly white and mostly male. IT leadership in K-12 is “whiter” than either K-12 educators or IT management in other industry segments, with 92 percent identifying as White. Men continue to be overrepresented, comprising a large majority (72 percent) of IT leaders.

Laura Ascione

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