Leadership and Community Involvement Dramatically Impact Education Technology Budgets

June 11, 2004

Washington, D.C. (June 10, 2004) – The Consortium for School Networking, (www.cosn.org), and Grunwald Associates (www.Grunwald.com) today released results from a new survey of more than 455 K-12 school district technology decision makers. The “Digital Leadership Divide: Without Visionary Leadership, Disparities in School Technology Budgets Increase” survey reveals large and growing disparities in funding for school technology. Yet surprisingly, findings also reveal that with visionary leadership and strong community support, some school districts are able to maintain and even bolster their technology plans and budgets.

“We are encouraged that many districts are applying visionary leadership to find ways to continue to fund and expand important educational technology initiatives,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). “However, our findings also show that stagnant or declining technology budgets threaten more than 6 in 10 school districts and a decade of progress made in the use of technology to improve the learning process.”

The survey found that schools committed to deepening the impact of technology in the educational process are finding ways to raise or repurpose funds to maintain or increase their level of support for technology, even in difficult budgeting cycles. And, conversely showed that schools that are less committed to using technology are falling behind — cutting budgets, reducing staff and forgoing the professional development needed to enable educators to use technology more effectively.

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, we found that school budgets may not be the biggest barrier to deploying and utilizing technology effectively in the classroom,” said Peter Grunwald, of Grunwald Associates. “Instead, visionary leadership coupled with an aggressive development of community and parental support seems to drive change in the most technology-intensive schools.”

To counter the disparities that signal a widening digital divide between the technology ‘haves and have-nots’ in 21st century, CoSN issued the following recommendations.

  • Move from automating administrative practices to transforming teaching and learning. School districts – lead by their CTOs – should follow the lead of businesses and other intensive users of technology to realize more substantive gains from the technology than they already have. Perhaps the most promising and powerful application of technology in education is the delivery of personalized instruction to meet the individual needs of every student.
  • Invest in technology leadership.To create and sustain a vision for integrating technology into the enterprise of learning, larger school districts should create a senior, full-time position for a chief technology officer or chief information officer. This person should be deeply involved in district leadership, working as a senior member of the superintendent’s team of key advisors to infuse technology into the district’s educational vision, goals and strategies. Smaller districts should consider pooling resources and sharing the services of a chief technology officer.
  • Create new professional development initiatives. Federal, state and regional education agencies and school districts can and must provide adequate professional development for teachers and administrators. Unfunded mandates are not enough. Up to 30 % of technology budgets should be allocated to professional development. Professional development in all academic disciplines should incorporate training in the effective use of technology.
  • Recruit the active support of parents and the community. School districts have proven they can succeed – despite budgetary constraints – when they tap into their communities to build understanding and support for technology spending and use. School districts must be aggressive in involving outside partners, such as businesses, professional groups, parent and community organizations, and after-school providers, in budgeting for the effective use of technology.

“America’s business community has effectively utilized technology to transform business processes in order to better meet the needs of its customers. This survey proves that our K-12 schools can do the same,” said Marilyn Reznick, Executive Director of the AT&T Foundation. “Effective use of technology will also allow parents to witness the benefits of their investments in a tangible way- spurring greater community involvement.”

“There is no doubt of the importance of the study’s overall finding that visionary leadership and strong community factors are key to helping school districts bolster their technology plans and budgets,” said Kurt Landgraf, President and CEO of ETS. “As ETS studies have confirmed over the years, the key to effective technology use in schools is people not equipment. In order to improve teaching and learning, technology must be integrated into the daily life of the classroom.”

“Our nation’s schools are just beginning to understand how they can best incorporate technology in the classroom and the challenge demands a community effort. Microsoft’s commitment to education includes working with state and local education communities, to help build sustainable models for using technology to reshape and improve the teaching and learning experience,” said Greg Butler Director, Microsoft K12 Education Strategy and Programs.

Support for the Digital Leadership Divide survey was provided by AT&T, the Educational Testing Service, and Microsoft. This survey is the first of a planned series of CoSN–Grunwald Associates surveys to monitor schools’ technology spending and trends.

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), a national non-profit organization, is the premier voice in education technology leadership. Our mission is to advance the K-12 education community’s capacity to effectively use technology to improve learning through advocacy, policy and leadership development. Our members represent school districts, state and local education agencies, nonprofits, companies and individuals who share our vision.

Anne Little
The Fratelli Group

Irene Spero

202/861-2676, ext. 112