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Lack of school tech leaders slows progress

Cash-strapped districts can consider sharing a CIO with a neighboring district

Districts that don’t have a full time chief technology officer may have a harder time keeping up with E-rate modernization and the shift to online testing, technology experts say.

Hundreds of educators are pressing for increased funding for E-rate, the government program that connects schools and libraries to the internet—especially important, given Common Core requirements for online assessment.

But without technology experts on hand, many schools will lack the capacity to properly implement sustainable and cost-effective plans for increased internet access, says Doug Levin, executive director of the State Educational Technology Director’s Association.

“Not having this leadership in place can lead to poor investments in education technology that are not aligned to school system goals,” Levin says. “The odds of having adequate tech support and professional development without such a leader are quite slim.”

Just 51 percent of schools had a full-time employee whose only job was to oversee technology, according to federal data from the 2006-2007 school year, the most recent available. Thirty-two percent of schools had a part-time employee, and 17 percent had no one in this role, the National Center for Education Statistics found.

These numbers were even lower in small and rural districts: only 42 percent of districts with fewer than 2,500 students had full-time chief technology officers, compared to 70 percent of midsize districts and 83 percent of districts with more than 10,000 students.

Cash-strapped districts can consider sharing a CIO with a neighboring district, partnering with a local university for support, or contracting with a regional education services agency, Levin says.

“We desperately need to invest in leadership development, not just broadband or devices,” Levin says. “Throwing money at districts without leadership is a recipe for disaster.”