Ed-tech equity: Leaders confront 10 COVID-era IT concerns

Almost all leaders surveyed said ed-tech equity is a top priority though their ranks remain overwhelmingly white and mostly male
By: | June 18, 2021
In an annual survey, K-12 edtech leaders said the “homework gap” became an “everything gap” during COVID and online learning.In an annual survey, K-12 edtech leaders said the “homework gap” became an “everything gap” during COVID and online learning.

“Lack of IT staffing reached a boiling point” during COVID is among the key findings in a survey of ed-tech and IT leadership in 400 school systems.

More than 60% of respondents said they didn’t have sufficient staffing to provide remote support to students and families, according to the annual EdTech Leadership Survey by the Consortium for School Networking and the Ed-Fi Alliance.

And while almost all of the leaders said equity and access to ed-tech was a higher priority than ever before, they also reported that IT leadership remains overwhelmingly white and mostly male.

In fact, school IT leadership—92% of whom identified as white—is ‘whiter’ than either K-12 corps of educators or IT management in other segments of the workforce, the survey found.

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And the roughly 3-to-1 male-to-female ratio in IT leadership has remained consistent over the past three years.

When it comes to budgeting, more than half the IT leaders identified funding as the main roadblock to achieving data interoperability, which many said had also become a higher priority.

Here are the survey’s other key findings:

  1. Department silos identified as a bigger challenge. The challenge of silos became the second biggest concern in this year’s survey. Respondents said breaking down inter-departmental silos was key in responding to COVID’s disruptions.
  2. Efforts to expand broadband access outside of school have increased dramatically. In 2020, almost half (49%) of respondents did not provide off-campus services, compared to just 5% in 2021.
  3. Concerns about digital equity have increased. More respondents identified access to ed-tech as a top concern, saying the “homework gap” became an “everything gap” during COVID. But inside buildings, 61% of tech leaders said they districts had avehived the FCC’s long-term bandwidth goals of 1 Gbps per 1,000 students in all their schools.
  4. Slow internet connections are the top challenges to remote teaching and learning. Virtually all districts reported challenges with video conferencing due to insufficient bandwidth.
  5. Specific cybersecurity risks are generally underestimated. Though leaders called cybersecurity and student data privacy a top ed-tech priority, the vast majority of respondents didn’t single out any specific threats as risk. Just about half ranked phishing as the No. 1 concern.
  6. Parental engagement has changed during the pandemic. Leaders in almost all of the districts surveyed reported communicating with parents more frequently through more channels. About two-thirds of the districts offered parents tips on technology use. 

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