Cybersecurity Remains EdTech Leaders’ No. 1 Priority in 2021 --Focus on Digital Equity and Access Grows

Annual CoSN Report Highlights Key Trends & Challenges EdTech Leaders Faced During the COVID-19 Pandemic Based on Nationwide Survey Results
Washington, DC
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
 CoSN today released its 2021 EdTech Leadership Survey Report, which includes IT leadership and infrastructure findings to give school districts and policymakers a holistic understanding of the K-12 IT landscape. This year’s report offers unique insight into the challenges that edtech leaders faced during the COVID-19 pandemic — critical information that will help CoSN create useful resources to assist schools in improving learning through technology.
 
The report was developed based on a national survey of nearly 400 rural, suburban and urban school systems. According to the results, while off-campus broadband access has nearly doubled over the past year, digital equity remains a pressing concern for school district IT leaders. Cybersecurity and student data privacy are respondents’ top priorities, but they continue to face significant budget challenges and underestimate the severity of threats.
 
“Digital equity has rightly become a top concern during the pandemic, with cybersecurity continuing to be at the forefront of priorities of school system IT leaders,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “Our annual survey allows CoSN to identify key trends like these so that we can better serve our members, inform policymakers and assist school districts in their digital transformations.”
 
The survey and report were conducted with the support of CDW•G and the Ed-Fi Alliance, and in partnership with AASA, The School Superintendents Association, MDR and Forecast5 Analytics. This year’s 10 top findings include:
 
  1. Efforts to expand broadband access outside of school have increased dramatically. In 2020, about half (51 percent) of district tech leaders provided off-campus internet services, but in 2021, that nearly doubled to 95 percent.
 
  1. Digital equity concerns have increased, with respondents ranking it the third most pressing issue overall. 97 percent said that concerns regarding students’ home access to devices and the internet have increased since the pandemic.
 
  1. Cybersecurity and the privacy of student data are the top two technology priorities, yet specific cybersecurity risks continue to be generally underestimated.
 
  1. The pandemic is adding new services provided by districts. An overwhelming majority of districts (97 percent) are providing contact tracing, temperature testing, device cleaning and student mental health counseling.
 
  1. Districts’ communications with parents have substantially evolved. Schools have increased the frequency, expanded the number of communication channels, enhanced existing options and provided more opportunities for two-way parent-to-teacher interaction.
 
  1. The top three challenges IT leaders face persist: budget, department silos and professional development. This year, silos moved up on the list, in part because breaking them down was precisely what an effective pandemic response required.
 
  1. For the first time, a majority of respondents (61 percent) met the Federal Communications Commission’s long-term broadband goal of 1 Gbps per 1,000 students — a target set in 2014.
 
  1. Internet connections at home that are often too slow for livestreaming and multiple users topped the list of remote teaching and learning challenges, pointing to the fact that internet access alone does not reliably assess student learning access. Virtually all districts faced difficulties with video-conferencing solutions due to bandwidth issues (66 percent), security breaches (43 percent), privacy (38 percent) and software installation (21 percent).
 
  1. 61 percent of districts were not prepared to provide remote technical support to students and families, further straining overwhelmed IT departments.
 
  1. The lack of racial, ethnic and gender diversity in IT leadership remains, with an overwhelming majority of respondents identifying as white and male.
 
 
“The annual CoSN report serves as an invaluable resource for edtech professionals across the country, and the top findings from this year’s EdTech Leadership Survey Report provide significant insights into the IT needs of an education community that had to navigate unprecedented changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Joe Simone, Vice President, Education, CDW•G. “Through our own customer conversations and the CoSN annual report, we are able to pinpoint critical areas of concern for IT leadership that helps guide our approach to the solutions and services we provide.”
 
 
“We were proud to once again work alongside the CoSN team in developing this report,” said Sean Casey, Manager of Strategic Partnerships at the Ed-Fi Alliance, a nonprofit devoted to helping school districts and states achieve data interoperability. “At Ed-Fi, our goal is to define data standards to solve problems shared by all educators and to arm the learning community with useful information, as found in this report, for conscientious decision-making that leads to better outcomes for learners everywhere.”
 
 
“A critical linchpin to ensure student success in a post-COVID world is to transform and support broadband connectivity for ALL learners,” said Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association. “The value of digital equity has never been more important than it is today, which is why we are pleased to partner with CoSN on this report. Returning to the past is not an option for our schools. Conquering the digital divide is a must-have if we’re going to deliver learner-centered education.” 
 
 
MEDIA CONTACT:
Heidi Payter, hpayter@fratelli.com, 202-822-9491
 
 
About CoSN
CoSN (the Consortium for School Networking) is the premier professional association for school system technology leaders. CoSN provides thought leadership resources, community best practices and advocacy tools to help leaders succeed in the digital transformation. CoSN represents over 13 million students in school districts nationwide and continues to grow as a powerful and influential voice in K-12 education. cosn.org
 
About CDW•G
A trusted partner to school districts of every size, CDW•G has more than 300 dedicated K-12 account managers, including a core group of education strategists and learning environment advisers. Our team’s experienced teachers, principals, superintendents and chief technology officers understand what it’s like to stand in your shoes — and are uniquely qualified to partner with you to architect, implement and manage technology. cdwg.com
 
About Ed-Fi Alliance
The Ed-Fi Alliance is a nationwide community of leading educators, technologists and data advocates connecting student data systems in order to transform education. A not-for-profit organization founded in 2012 by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Ed-Fi aims to boost student achievement by empowering educators with real-time, comprehensive insight into every student. Ed-Fi technologies streamline data management in school districts and states across the country. By allowing schools to integrate data previously siloed within disconnected tools and software — and organizing it through a single, secure data standard — Ed-Fi solves one of the country’s most perplexing educational challenges: how to get a complete, accurate view of individual student achievement, so that every student can receive the support they need when they need it most. ed-fi.org
 
About AASA, The School Superintendents Association
AASA, The School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA advocates for equitable access for all students to the highest quality public education and supports school system leaders. aasa.org
 
About MDR
MDR is a full-service school and community engagement partner. A division of Dun & Bradstreet, MDR is a different kind of integrated marketing services agency that combines rich data with unique digital, creative and branding capabilities. They have been connecting brands through data and marketing services to educators, youth and parents for 50 years. MDR’s database and digital communities, including EdNET, SchoolData, WeAreTeachers, WeAreParents and School Leaders Now enable brands to connect with educators. mdreducation.com
 
About Forecast5 Analytics
Forecast5 Analytics empowers district leaders to harness the power of their data for more informed decision-making. Our analytics technology helps you use visual outputs and dashboards to identify both strategic and financial opportunities in the areas of financial performance, compensation, student performance and enrollment/demographics. More than 2,000 school districts across the country are using Forecast5 tools to maximize their data insights and enhance decision-making. forecast5analytics.com