The goal of the CETL certification program is to help district technology leaders create compelling learning environments. CoSN believes the program will equip CTOs with the range of skills and knowledge needed to be the effective educational leaders—not just technology leaders—who provide the vision for the role technology can play in innovation. As the country’s premier voice for K-12 education technology leaders – whose strategic use of technology improves teaching and learning – CoSN is the right association to address this need and launch the Certified Education Technology Leader (CETL) certification program. (back to top)
CoSN believes it is the right time to build stronger and more comprehensive professional development for CTOs and their evolving role, and to accelerate the credentialing for district technology leaders/CTOs. The goal of CETL Certification is to enable strategic and systemic use of technology in K-12 schools to improve learning. (back to top)
What are the drivers for CoSN to be engaged in providing a path toward certification for the K-12 CTO?
While technology has had a transformative impact on society and in many industry sectors, the global research on its influence in education demonstrates something far different. Most technology in education has been over-promised in the short-range. It has largely been layered on top of what schools are already doing with limited effect. However, when appropriately implemented with strong leadership and a clear vision as well as sufficient professional development, technology can be profoundly powerful and transformative.
School district leaders need to define a new vision and acquire appropriate skills in order to build 21st century learning environments. CoSN believes that technology can play a decisive role in that process. But district technology leaders in the U.S. are often not part of the senior cabinet level decision-making. In most school districts, technology is not evaluated from an enterprise perspective in terms of improving and innovating learning. (back to top)
Is there a case for providing focused professional development and certification for K-12 CTOs?
According to the consulting firm of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, responsibilities of the CIO/CTO in all industry sectors have moved from being largely technical (in the 1990’s, it was 76% of their job) to being largely strategic (Leadership and Management, Fiscal Management, Organization and Culture Skills, and Business Skills). In the education sector, this shift hasn’t occurred on a wide scale, and there is a shortage of leaders who possess the broad set of skills needed to provide strategic technology leadership within their school district. Based on this need, CoSN set out to create the body of knowledge a CTO must possess to effectively perform his or her job. (back to top)
How was the CTO body of knowledge created?
Since 1992, CoSN has been building the capacity of district technology leaders/CTOs. In 2001, CoSN worked with a team of CTO professionals to create the Framework of Essential Skills of the K-12 CTO
, which defined the body of knowledge and skills necessary to be a viable and effective CTO in the education technology field. CoSN now relies on volunteers in the education technology field to keep the Framework
updated to reflect the changes taking place in the profession. All professional development materials created by CoSN tie to at least one of the Framework’s
10 skill areas. The Framework
is also being used to create the CETL certification exam. CoSN encourages those working in the education technology field to use the Framework
to plan their professional development activities and to study for the CETL exam. (back to top)
What essential skill areas have been defined in CoSN’s Framework, and how were they determined?
CoSN has worked for many years to enable district technology leaders to increase their knowledge and skills using CoSN’s Framework of Essential Skills of the K-12 CTO
. The body of knowledge for the Framework
has been discussed and refined to ensure that it is representative of the roles, responsibilities, and challenges faced by today's practicing Chief Technology Officers.
CoSN has used the Framework
as the basis of its professional development and published resources to help improve the capabilities of school leaders at the national, state, and local levels.
is comprised of three primary professional categories in the education technology field. Each of these categories includes 10 specific skill areas, outlining the responsibilities and knowledge needed to be a viable educational technology leader.
Leadership & Vision
Leadership & Vision
Ethics & Policies
Understanding the Educational Environment
Team Building & Staffing
Managing Technology & Support Resources
In addition, CoSN identified the core values and skills necessary to be an effective CTO. These core values and skills extend through all 10 skill areas and are practiced by effective CTOs. They represent the critical personal skills and behaviors necessary for accomplishing all of the other competencies identified in the Framework
. These core values and skills include being an effective Communicator and Innovator
, Exhibiting Courage
, and being Flexible & Adaptable
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The education technology field is constantly changing. How is the Framework updated to reflect these changes?
In 2009, CoSN’s CTO Certification Task Force received approval by the CoSN Board for the association to develop a certification program based on CoSN’s Framework of Essential Skills of the K-12 CTO
, which had been created in 2001. This task force refreshed the Framework
by reviewing each skill area, identifying gaps, regrouping skill areas as needed, and adding, editing, and deleting any skills no longer relevant to the field. The task force also mapped the skills identified in the Framework
to other standards, including but not limited to:
- The Baldridge Education Criteria for Performance Excellence
- Microsoft’s Professional Leadership Competency Wheel
- Bill Rust, Gartner
- ISTE NETS standards
- Research by Maurice Green (CIO competence) and others
To validate the updates, the task force sought input from external subject matter experts including CoSN’s CTO Council, participants in the CTO Leadership Forum at the 2009 state conference, and representatives from CoSN state chapters.
In 2011, CoSN contracted with Prometric, a world-renowned certification exam development company, to facilitate the creation of the certification exam. Working with the newly formed Item Writing Panel, which is comprised of volunteer education technology leaders, the Framework
was again revised to include the knowledge needed by CTOS to perform the tasks already outlined in the Framework
. The Item Writing Panel, who creates the certification exam, is also responsible for ensuring the Framework
is kept up to date as changes occur in the field. As a final quality control measure, CoSN assembled a second group of volunteer education technology leaders. The Item Review Panel reviews each exam item before it is officially added to the item bank. The Item Review Panel is also responsible for ensuring that each item is current and reflective of the education technology field. (back to top)
How does CoSN’s Framework relate to ISTE’s NETS standards?
CoSN works in partnership with ISTE on policy and respects its work, but the two are separate organizations.
NETS-A, which CoSN participated in developing when they were originally conceived, is intended for principals and superintendents. CoSN, the association of district technology leaders/CTOs, sees as a parallel effort its Framework
. There is certainly some overlap between the two sets of standards and competencies, such as those related to social, ethical, legal, and human issues; leadership and vision; and perhaps others. The difference in the competencies parallels the core differentiators between ISTE and CoSN. While ISTE focuses on instructional practice and students, teachers and administrators, CoSN specifically focuses on district technology leaders/Chief Technology Officers (CTOs).
Another way to think about this is that many of the competencies in CoSN’s Framework
will support and allow ISTE NETS standards to be carried out. For example, consider the NETS standard, "Use technology to communicate and collaborate with peers, parents, and the larger community in order to nurture student learning. Candidates: model and implement the use of telecommunications tools and resources to foster and support information sharing, remote information access, and communication between students, school staff, parents, and local community.” There is no mention of some of the things a CTO needs to do to be certain systems (e.g., phone systems, web servers, e-mail servers, network infrastructure, and other similar systems) are in place to ensure that this competency can be obtained. (back to top)
What market research has been done to determine whether district stakeholders will support a certification program?
Prior to embarking on this initiative, CoSN collected data on related programs that existed and concluded that, at the present time, no one was doing the type of school district CTO certification that matched CoSN’s objectives. There were certificate programs, and a few states had licensure efforts at a minimum competency level, and some states offered what are labeled certification programs but are closer to mentoring programs, but no state had an aspirational certification for school district CTOs. The CETL certification program will fill this need.
Before the Board voted unanimously to proceed in this direction, CoSN conducted a survey of both CTOs and their bosses (superintendents). The results were very positive regarding the need and the level of interest from both the prospective audience for the certification and those who hire CTOs.
In 2011, CoSN conducted another Market Analysis of CTOs and school superintendents. This study showed that both superintendents and CTOs see the value and importance in professional certification for CTOs. Respondents also saw professional certification as more than a personal tool for career or salary advancement. Study respondents stated clearly that professional development and certification for district technology leaders have the potential to contribute substantively to a district’s success in everything from instruction, administrative efficacy, and community outreach to network security, ongoing funding, and most important, improved student achievement. (back to top)
Did CoSN consider other forms of credentialing such as a certificate program to satisfy the professional development needs of those working in the field?
CoSN committees did early research in conjunction with a consultant to compare and contrast a certificate program with certification and consider the advantages and disadvantages of each and determined certification best met CoSN’s objectives. Based on work with the consultant, it was determined that the primary distinction between certification and certificates is in their focus: in certification, the focus is on assessing current knowledge and skills, and then, through recertification requirements, staying current with those knowledge and skills. By contrast, certificate programs focus on training individuals to achieve a certain knowledge and skill base and then assessing attainment of it. With certificate programs, no follow-up training is required. (back to top)
What is the target audience and expected level of skills and prior experience of representative candidates for certification?
Although the Framework
outlines the expected level of skills and prior experience of representative candidates for the CETL certification, there are few technology leaders in schools now who possess all of these competencies. Therefore, the primary target audience for the CETL certification includes current district technology leaders aspiring to become key members of their organizations’ leadership teams as well as those CTOs already positioned there who want to increase their competency.
Our target audience reflects the evolving role of CTOs in education as well as in other sectors with the changing world of work. According to “CIOs in K-12 Education Must Demonstrate Political and Interpersonal Skills,” a Gartner Industry Research article from May 3, 2006, the technology leadership role in K-12 education is evolving and now requires not only technical and educational skills and abilities, but also political and interpersonal ones. According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the responsibilities of the CIO/CTO have moved from being largely technical (in the 1990’s, it was 76% of their job) to being largely strategic (Leadership and Management, Fiscal Management, Organization and Culture Skills, and Business Skills).
In the education sector, this shift hasn’t occurred on a wide scale, and there is a shortage of leaders who possess the broad set of skills needed to provide strategic technology leadership within their school district.
Education technology leaders often come from diverse backgrounds—some come from instructional backgrounds, some from technical backgrounds, and some from the business sector. While each path brings strengths, experience, and expertise to the role, it is rare that a CTO possesses the range of knowledge and skills a CTO must have, as identified in the Framework
, in order to help the district succeed and realize its mission and goals. (back to top)
How is the CETL exam structured?
There are two parts to the exam, both based on the Framework of Essential Skills of the K-12 CTO
. Part I of the exam is a multiple-choice exam, administered via internet-based testing (IBT) at proctored sites throughout the year. Part II of the exam is essay-based, also administered via IBT. Only those passing Part I will be eligible to take Part II. CoSN is working with Prometric to ensure that the exam is psychometrically sound and legally defensible. (back to top)
What are the eligibility requirements to take the CETL exam?
To sit for the CETL exam, applicants must have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree plus four years of education technology experience. Education technology experience is defined as demonstrable experience in the three primary professional categories of the Framework
, which are:
- Leadership & Vision
- Understanding the Educational Environment
- Managing Technology & Support Services
If the candidate doesn’t meet the minimum requirements, they must have at least 7 years of demonstrable experience in education technology. To be deemed eligible using these criteria, the candidate must appeal to the Certification Governance Committee. This appeal, in writing, must include an explanation of this experience plus a signed recommendation from the candidate’s supervisor. (back to top)
What does it cost to take the exam?
The costs to sit for the CETL exam are:
$299 ($150 nonrefundable)
Retake fee: $200 per exam part per retake
$499 ($180 nonrefundable)
Retake fee: $200 per exam part per retake
are available-- please contact the certification team
The initial $299/$499 dollar exam fees are the first-time charge to take the entire exam (Parts I and II). Part I must be passed before the candidate is eligible to take Part II. If the candidate fails Part I, the retake fee will apply each time Part I is retaken. When Part I is passed, the candidate may take Part II. If the candidate fails Part II, the retake fee will apply each time Part II is retaken. (back to top)
How is the CETL certification program governed?
CoSN’s CETL certification program was created by and for education technology leaders. This ensures that the program is a reflection of today’s CTO profession. The program is managed by the Certification Governance Committee (CGC), which is a separate volunteer group of subject matter experts with a combined total of more than 160 years of experience in the education technology field. The CGC includes representatives from all sectors of the education technology field as well as a public member knowledgeable about industry standards.
The CGC is responsible for establishing all policies and procedures pertaining to program, including approving all updates to the Framework
, setting the eligibility requirements, setting the recertification requirements, establishing costs, and determining the passing score of the exam. The CoSN staff is responsible for carrying out and applying those rules and procedures.
Following certification industry best practices, there is a distinct firewall between those creating the CETL program and exam, and those responsible for CoSN’s day-to-day operations. This ensures the integrity of the exam. Those overseeing the CETL certification program are not involved in CoSN’s decision-making and budget oversight. In addition, those at CoSN responsible for creating preparatory materials for the exam do not have access to the exam’s content. (back to top)
Does CoSN offer preparatory materials for exam preparation?
In March 2012, CoSN released Become a Highly Capable School System Technology Leader: CoSN’s Certified Education Technology Leader (CETL) Certification Program Preparation Materials
. This 11-module publication takes an in-depth look at each of the 10 skill areas identified in the Framework
. Each module includes "To Do" exercises, "Reflection Questions" to help you gauge your understanding of the specific skill area, and an "Extending Your Study" section with suggestions for additional information on the module's topic.
Additional materials can be found in CoSN's Knowledge Center
, which includes training resources and materials, provided through its many initiatives and resources targeted at district technology leaders’ professional development needs. Among these are:
Mastering The Moment: A Guide to Technology Leadership in the Economic Crisis
Budgeting with Total Cost of Ownership
Calculating the Value of Investment
Cyber Security for the Digital District
Data-Driven Decision Making
Green Computing for K-12 Schools
IT Crisis Preparedness
Empowering the 21st Century Superintendent
Participatory Learning in Schools
CoSN’s Knowledge Center allows users to search for resources targeted to each of the Framework’s
10 skill area.
The CETL certification program is more than an exam. It encompasses both formal and informal training opportunities, mentoring, and other professional development tools. CoSN’s Framework of Essential Skills of the K-12 CTO
drives all of CoSN’s work and information development including professional development resources, compendium articles, webinars, state and national conferences, and other tools. There is a vast array of CoSN resources in place to support CTOs in acquiring the necessary skills and competencies to be viable members of their districts’ leadership teams.
Additionally, CoSN is working to develop relationships with other organizations to help ensure candidates have the tools necessary to prepare for the certification. (back to top)
Where will the CETL exam be administered?
The first official administration of the CETL exam was conducted during the CoSN Annual Conference in March 2012. Other administrations will be held throughout the country at both CoSN events as well as others. Please watch our website for upcoming administrations. (back to top)