Jan 14 2014

Why Deadlines Matter

Both a blessing and a curse, deadlines force productivity, a timeline and a game plan that might otherwise go undefined.

It's hard not to have a love-hate relationship with deadlines. As a career journalist, I've become accustomed to working toward and meeting them — and then doing it again.

The blessing (and curse) of deadlines, of course, is that they force productivity, a timeline and a game plan that might otherwise go undefined. Without those things, small tasks, complicated projects and ­everything in between can languish — or worse, move forward without the quality and comprehensiveness that would have been possible with proper forethought and a commitment to doing the job well.

Minding the Clock

This issue is full of examples of districts contending with deadlines.

Perhaps the most pressing deadline for many schools is April 8 — the date on which Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP. Schools still ­using the ­operating system at that point will no longer receive security patches or updates, putting all XP-running computers at risk should a problem emerge.

Failing to migrate can be costly in more literal ways too: According to Gartner, districts that fail to migrate to Windows 7 or 8 by the deadline could pay $200,000 to $500,000 for a one-year custom ­support contract from Microsoft — a ­significant amount of money for any school already facing budget constraints.

How are districts preparing for life after Windows XP? IT leaders from Arizona, Massachusetts and Washington share their plans in "How Is K–12 Preparing for Life After XP?" As Kurt Gazow, manager of information technology for Evergreen Public Schools in Washington, explains, "XP has served us well for many years, but it is also limiting. While a migration like this will take quite a bit of time and energy to accomplish, and while change and transition are never easy, it is necessary in order to best support our students and staff in their efforts."

For more help migrating to a new OS, visit CDWG.com/xpendoflife.

Looking for other time management pointers? In "Tracking Shawnee Mission School District's Technology Overhaul," the people behind Shawnee Mission (Kan.) School District's 20-month wireless and telephony systems overhaul map out the timeline — and the ­factors that drove their decision-making.

And in "Need Help Transitioning to Online Assessments?" Dr. Geoffrey H. Fletcher explains how the State Educational Technology Directors Association's Implementing Online Assessments: Pathways to Success website can help districts navigate the transition to Common Core–mandated online testing in time for the 2014–2015 school year.

As these stories and others in this issue demonstrate, deadlines can be challenging. But from those challenges can emerge great things that make schools — and students — better.