Frequently Asked Questions

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With the CETL® certification, district technology leaders validate their skills and qualifications in building transformative learning environments. Want to start heading down the CETL® path? Still have unanswered questions? We have the answers for you. Email us or call 202-524-8464 for any inquiries.

CETL® Frequently Asked Questions

What is the CETL® Certification Exam?

The CETL® certification exam is based on The Framework of Essential Skills of the K-12 CTO—the body of knowledge defining the skill areas critical to today’s education technology leaders. The Framework, which was created and is kept up-to-date by two volunteer panels of education technology leaders, is divided into three primary areas:

  • Leadership and Vision
  • Understanding the Educational Environment
  • Managing Technology and Support Resources

For K-12 education technology leaders, earning the CETL certification will demonstrate to your staff, superintendent, and other stakeholders that you have mastered the knowledge and skills needed to define the vision for and successfully build 21st century learning environments in your school district.

How can I explain that in a nutshell?

There is a defined set of skills and knowledge required to excel as a CTO. CoSN provides professional development materials to help CTOs develop that knowledge. The certification exam validates that a CTO has mastered the knowledge.

Who are the CETL® candidates?

The primary target audience includes K-12 district technology leaders who are or aspire to become key members of their organizations’ leadership teams. View a directory of CETL certified ed tech leaders here.

What are the skills and experiences of CETL® candidates?

Our candidates reflect the evolving role of CTOs in K-12 education; the responsibilities of the CIO or CTO have moved from being largely technical to being largely strategic, and CTOs must demonstrate skills in leadership and management, fiscal management, organization and culture, and business.

Education technology leaders come from diverse backgrounds, including instructional, technical, and the business sector. While each path fosters strengths, experience, and expertise to the role, it is rare that a CTO possesses the full range of knowledge and skills needed, as identified in the Framework, to help the district succeed and realize its mission and goals.

How many district technology leaders are CETL® certified?

View a current list and map of CETLs here.

Do CETLs see value in certification?

In a 2013 survey by CoSN of CETL certificants, almost all (96%) of CETLs expect to re-certify, and 94% would recommend certification to colleagues within the K-12 industry.

What do CETLs say about the value of certification?

CETLs say that pursuing certification has been crucial to their professional development. Many of them feel that the credential has allowed them to take the next step in their careers and justified a seat at the cabinet table in their districts.

The 2013 survey showed that most (80%) of CETLs took the exam for added professional development. Almost 61% expected to advance their careers. They believe it will enhance their performance and ability to advance in the job or change jobs. Almost 85% of CETLs have used the Framework to determine additional professional development, and 64% have also used it to decide professional development for their departments (and 44% for their districts).

Here is what respondents said about the CETL® program’s value:

  • “The CoSN framework, CETL® study materials, and CETL® exam provide ed tech professionals with a national recognition of their skills, hard work, and value to the organization.”
  • “I am vouched for by organizations concentrating on ed tech.”
  • Receiving the CETL® certification justifies a seat in the district cabinet.
  • “I think everybody should pursue it to be as effective as possible.”
  • “The real focus is the Framework—a place for me as a professional to refer back to over and over; not a document that holds all the answers, but a place where we can ground our processes and tasks by seeing what professionals think.”
  • “The ‘essential skills’ … are competencies that all chief technology officers should possess.”

What is the value of the CETL® program to school district leadership?

School district leaders are looking at how they can lead an effective conversion from the old education models to those enabling individualized learning with technology, and that process starts with a strong CTO. Without a CTO who has the full complement of Framework skills, a district’s technology implementation may be marginal. Even if the project succeeds technically, the implementation is unlikely to strengthen the district in strategic ways and support improved learning. Senior education executives are beginning to use the CETL® designation as a key indication of appropriate expertise in making hiring decisions.

How rigorous is the examination? What is the pass rate?

The examination is quite rigorous, requiring considerable preparation. Of the nearly 160 test takers, the average pass rate is 65%.

How is the CETL® exam structured?

There are two parts to the exam, both based on the Framework. Part I of the exam is multiple choice, administered via Internet-based testing (IBT) at proctored sites throughout the year. Part II of the exam is essay-based, also administered via IBT, but graded by expert CTOs trained for consistency. Only those who pass Part I will be eligible to take Part II. CoSN works with Prometric to ensure that the exam is psychometrically sound and legally defensible.

How can I prepare effectively?

CoSN offers full preparation materials.

The CoSN Online Collaborative Learning Site, Become a Highly Capable School System Technology Leader, greatly improves your chances for success. This 11-module offering takes an in-depth look at each of the 10 skill areas identified in the Framework. Each module includes To Do exercises, Reflection Questions, and an Extending Your Study section with suggestions for additional information on the module's topic.

You will also want to review the Framework and take our online self-assessment and sample exam; all of these resources can be found at www.cosn.org/certification/preparing-exam.

We also encourage you to join a study group; these groups help candidates stay on a schedule and will help you tap into your colleagues’ expertise and support. For information, please contact the certification team.

How long does preparation take, and are the study materials aligned to the test?

It varies; some individuals took the exam immediately after reviewing our prep materials, and some prepared for a year. Study groups, and most individual candidates, typically complete preparation in two to three months.

The Framework is the basis of both the exam content and our study materials; while no one resource will “teach to the test,” all materials are aligned.

What are the eligibility requirements to apply?

There is no qualification process for participating in CETL training courses, however there are minimum education and experience requirements to sit for the exam. Participating in this course does not guarantee qualification to sit for the exam. To apply for the CETL® exam, applicants must, at a minimum, have 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; and Managing Technology & Support Services.

If the candidate does not have a bachelor’s degree, s/he must have at least seven years of demonstrable experience in education technology and appeal to the Certification Governance Committee, in writing, with an explanation of this experience and a signed recommendation from the candidate’s supervisor.

Where is the CETL® exam administered?

Exams are administered throughout the United States. Scheduled administrations can be found at cosn.org/certification/taking-exam. However, exams can be taken anywhere; all you need is a CoSN approved proctor and a computer with Internet access. Email us at certification@cosn.org to set up an exam administration.

What does it cost to take the exam?

CoSN Member: $299 ($150 nonrefundable); retake fee: $200 for each exam part per retake. Nonmember: $499 ($180 nonrefundable); retake fee: $200 for each exam part per retake.

The initial $299 / $499 dollar exam fees cover the entire exam (Parts I and II). A candidate must pass Part I to become eligible for Part II. If the candidate fails Part I, the retake fee will apply each time Part I is retaken. When a candidate passes Part I, s/he may take Part II at no additional cost. If the candidate fails Part II, the retake fee will apply for each retake.

Isn’t this an expensive program?

CETL® online preparatory materials and exam costs are well under $1000—comparable to or lower than comprehensive certification prep and exam offerings from other organizations.

Are there ways to handle costs for preparation and examination?

CoSN offers group discounts and discounts for special situations (Annual Conference attendance). Some states, such as Indiana, offer professional development scholarships covering CETL® preparation and examination costs.

Is there support for the CETL® community?

A LinkedIn group was created to allow the CETL® community to collaborate and extend professional development opportunities. We also have a team of CETL® Ambassadors developing tools and advocating for CETL®.

What are the recertification requirements?

The CETL® certification will expire three years after the date of issue. To remain certified, a CETL® is required to stay current in the CTO field by completing 60 hours of CoSN-defined continuing education activities (CEAs) or prepare to retake and pass the CETL® exam before the expiration of the certification. All CEAs must be tied to one or more of the 10 skill areas identified in the Framework. In addition, recertification activities must take place within the three-year certification cycle.

I just earned my CETL®. How can I continue to promote and support the certification?

You can become a (CETL® Ambassador) and help reach aspiring district technology leaders nationwide. You can also spread the word on social media, especially across the CoSN’s channels, i.e. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. When sharing, use the hashtag #CETLWorks, so you can learn from and connect with peers from anywhere. Visit cosn.org/cetl-seallogo for the CETL® logo and image for your email signature line. Proctor and Exam or volunteer for a committee (please send us an email).