Mar 13 2013

CoSN 2013: What K–12 IT Leaders Really Think

New survey identifies trends, challenges and priorities that drive technology planning and purchasing decisions.

Want to know how school districts are using technology? Ask their IT leaders.

That’s precisely what the Consortium for School Networking did last fall when it commissioned MCH Strategic Data to conduct its first annual K–12 IT Leadership Survey. The purpose of the survey was to investigate how education leaders are leveraging technology to foster engaging learning environments, how these efforts have changed over time and how the choices made today will shape tomorrow.

As CoSN notes in the introduction to the survey results, which were released during this week’s CoSN 2013 conference in San Diego, today’s education IT leaders “are unique among IT professionals” because they “must not only know all the current and emerging technologies, but also must have a deep understanding of how this technology can be used to transform education.”

Whereas school IT specialists once were expected “to make sure computers worked and to troubleshoot issues when they arose,” today’s educational environment demands visionary technology leaders who:

  • Understand the complexity of the teaching/learning process and the importance of the educational environment
  • Work closely with finance to understand total cost of ownership and wise purchasing practices for the changing technological landscape
  • Know how technology enhances the student’s educational experience
  • Play an active role in the school district’s long-term strategic and operational goals

In the Weeds

The survey, completed by 250 of the 2,500-plus IT leaders who received it, addressed a wide range of issues. Here are five key findings.

1. School IT Budgets Aren't Growing

Roughly 80 percent of respondents predicted flat (61.6 percent) or declining (19.2 percent) IT budgets for the 2012–2013 school year. Only 19.2 percent of respondents expected to have a bigger IT budget this year.

2. Broadband, BYOD and Common Core Are Top of Mind

The top three IT priorities or initiatives upon which IT leaders are focused are bring-your-own-device programs (43.3 percent), readiness for Common Core-mandated online assessments beginning in 2014 (34.8 percent) and adequate broadband access (24.2 percent). Investing wisely (23 percent) and data-driven decision making (21.9 percent) also ranked highly.

3. K-12 Is Going Through Changes

The three biggest challenges IT leaders face when planning and implementing technology-enabled learning environments are limited budget and resources (cited by 75.9 percent of respondents), transitioning to a student-centered culture of teaching (65.7 percent), and breaking down district silos (39.8 percent).

4. Salaries in K-12 Lag Behind Private Sector

The salaries of K–12 chief technology officers lag behind the business sector. Two-thirds of survey respondents earn an annual salary of less than $100,000, whereas the average annual reported salary for CTOs in business exceeds $190,000.

5. Now's the Time to Get Certified

More than half of the survey respondents were aware of CoSN’s year-old Certified Education Technology Leader program for district CTOs.

To read an overview of the key findings, visit, or download the full report.

The Who

Core demographics of the 250 respondents who participated in the Consortium for School Networking’s first annual K–12 IT Leadership Survey:

  • More than 95 percent work for public schools and education service agencies representing public schools
  • 42 percent work in districts with fewer than 2,500 students, while 17 percent work in districts with enrollments exceeding 15,000 students
  • 10 percent have more than 80 percent of their student populations qualifying for free and reduced-price lunch (FRL) programs, and 35 percent have fewer than 40 percent students qualifying for FRL
  • About 42 percent work for rural districts, 38 percent work for suburban districts and 20 percent work for urban districts

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