The Center for Digital Education’s annual survey of school districts nationwide — The Digital School Districts Survey — recognizes districts for innovating, exploring new technologies and addressing the most important challenges in education today.
The 14th annual survey was conducted in the 2017-2018 school year and covered a wide range of topics from transparency efforts to digital education strategies.
Small, mid-sized and large districts in 24 states participated this year. The top scorers in each size category were recognized for their work to use classroom technology, best practices in IT planning, implementation of digital content and curriculum and effective use of data for student achievement. Big or small, every district is tasked with helping students reach their potential and many are turning to digital tools to help make that happen. Overall, these districts are working hard to provide cutting-edge technology with limited financial resources.
In addition to recognizing exceptional school districts, the Digital School Districts Survey serves as a benchmark to where education technology use is today. Some of the interesting findings from this year’s survey include:
- Personalized Learning is a key driver of technology adoption. Over 90 percent of responding districts provide computers, digital curriculum, and professional development in order to encourage personalized learning practices. When asked what the primary drivers are for districts to use digital content and curriculum, the top scoring choice was “to create a more personalized learning environment.” Personalized learning was also chosen as the highest priority initiative for the coming year.
- Data analytics use in education is becoming more sophisticated, better managed and more common. While many districts nationwide are still developing their data analytics practices, some of our survey respondents are leading the movement to improve the use of data toward the aim of improving student outcomes. Three-quarters of our survey respondents integrate data from multiple sources into a dashboard to support educator and/or administrator decision-making. Three-quarters of our responding districts also report having a data analysis team that processes and disseminates findings from data analytics work. All of our survey respondents report that their districts use data analytics to some degree in their districts.
- Strategies to guide digital content and curriculum use are lagging behind adoption. Survey respondents reported high use of digital content and curriculum in district classrooms — over half of districts report that nearly all of their fourth- through 12th-grade classrooms are using digital content regularly and 90 percent are using interactive digital learning objects (among other digital content). However, only one-quarter of districts have a fully implemented digital strategy that is updated annually.
- Collaboration among many stakeholders is common. Over 90 percent of districts are participating in professional development activities with outside districts, and two-thirds are using cooperative purchasing programs. Almost 90 percent are working with outside organizations such as museums or colleges to provide education events for students, and nearly as many are also collaborating to provide professional development for their educators. Within districts, over 80 percent of survey respondents report collaborating to develop digital content and tools for classroom use, jointly planning for digital content or curriculum and sharing professional development resources.
- Student success comes first in digital strategies. “Preparing children for the 21st century economy” was the top-ranked answer to a question about the key drivers to improving district digital infrastructure. “Improving student performance” came in second. As mentioned above, personalized learning is the top driver for using digital content and curriculum. The next two priorities are increasing student engagement and supporting struggling and special needs students. These ranked much higher than less student-focused priorities such as raising test scores and cost savings.
The districts that participated in this year’s Digital School Districts Survey provide exciting examples of how public educators are using innovative practices, strategies, and technologies to achieve their goal of success for every student.