Apr 05 2016

CoSN 2016: The Good, the Bad, and the Ubiquitous

Leadership survey announces major concerns and priorities from K–12 IT leaders for the coming year.

Broadband and network capacity is the top priority for IT leaders in 2016, while securing student data remains a pressing concern. Those were two of the 10 key findings highlighted in the Consortium for School Networking’s fourth K–12 IT Leadership Survey Report, which was released on Monday in conjunction with the opening of CoSN’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Even more startling: The survey highlighted a deep lack of racial diversity in the field. “Ninety percent of IT leaders are white,” said Tom Ryan, chief executive officer of the eLearn Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes the use of digital learning tools. Ryan read the top results of the survey during Monday’s opening plenary session.

Survey Says

In the survey, more than 500 IT leaders offer information about their challenges and priorities, salaries and budgets. To assess those filling current IT leadership roles, the survey also delved into the respondents’ professional backgrounds, education and years of experience.

“New to this year’s survey are questions about how districts assess the impact of technology, what support is provided to emerging leaders, what policies are in place regarding students’ use of personal devices in school and what role IT leaders play in districts’ digital content purchasing decisions,” the report states. “As districts increasingly integrate technology for instruction as well as back-end administrative operations, it is essential that we have a clear understanding of the realities faced by K–12 IT leaders.”

Those realities include a lack of racial diversity, lower pay than IT counterparts in the private sector and a different path to IT leadership based on gender, but they also include future-forward plans for IT resources, as well as thoughtful consideration for evolving technology-based curricula.

Equal Pay for Equal Work?

Interestingly, salaries are lower for IT directors in the K–12 sector than outside of it, the survey points out. A chief information technology officer in the private sector makes a median annual income of $258,969. The majority of survey respondents, on the other hand, make $99,999 or less per year, with many under $70,000.

“Even higher ed IT leaders, with an average CIO salary of $149,597, earn more than their counterparts in K–12,” the report points out.

Despite this pay disparity, K–12 leaders continue to be well educated, exceeding national averages in that regard. “Over the years, results from the survey show IT Leaders are a well-educated group, with at least 75 percent having some college beyond their bachelor’s degree,” the report states.

Here are the top 10 key findings from the report:

  1. Broadband and network capacity is the top priority for IT leaders, replacing assessment readiness, which failed to make the top three for the first time.
  2. Privacy and security of student data is an increasing concern for IT leaders, with 64 percent saying it is more important than last year.
  3. Nearly 90 percent of respondents expect their instructional materials to be at least 50 percent digital within the next three years.
  4. Virtually all respondents (99 percent) expect to incorporate digital open educational resources over the next three years, with 45 percent expecting their digital content to be at least 50 percent OER within that time frame. This is the first time the survey has addressed OER.
  5. Nearly 80 percent of IT leaders use online productivity tools, making it the most-used category of cloud-based solutions in education.
  6. District bans on student personal devices are a thing of the past — only 11 percent of those surveyed said they have banning policies.
  7. The path to IT leadership differs for women and men. The vast majority of women come from education or instructional backgrounds (72 percent), while the majority of men (54 percent) come from technology or technical backgrounds.
  8. Racial diversity in IT leadership is lacking. Ninety percent of school IT leaders are white.
  9. IT leaders have advanced education, with 75 percent earning some college credits beyond their bachelor’s degree.
  10. More than a third of IT leaders plan to retire in the next six years.

Catch all of our coverage of CoSN 2016 by following EdTech's conference landing page.

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