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ISTE and ASCD to Merge, Align Curriculum With Tech

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and the International Society for Technology in Education, two nonprofits concerned with curriculum and ed-tech innovation, respectively, intend to improve student learning and engagement by working together.

Students doing homework, two writing in notebooks and one typing on a tablet.
The nonprofit International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) will become one large nonprofit after ASCD members voted last month on the transaction, which was previously approved by the boards of both organizations, according to a joint news release.

Each entity will continue to use their respective brands, including member services and annual conferences, after the merger takes effect in January. The name of the fused nonprofit, to be governed by a joint board of directors, remains to be determined, the announcement said.

ASCD Interim Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director Sandy Husk, who earlier in her career served as an educator and superintendent, told Government Technology that conversations about curriculum and instruction should not be separate from those about innovation in classrooms. The merger will bring those two topics together.

“This will take [ASCD] from content of curriculum and instruction and pedagogy into innovation and digital, and to have them learning and thinking about those things simultaneously,” Husk said. “So as soon as you can get [curriculum and innovation] to be aligned, it just really strengthens the experience of everybody.”

ISTE CEO Richard Culatta, who will head the merged organization, said that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the timeline for technology in education. He said prior to school closures in early 2020, districts could get away with not having certain digital tools in the classroom, but that’s not the case anymore, and ISTE and ASCD are joining forces to support the new reality of digital education.

“It’s now on us and the organizations that support the educators to also make the changes that we need to support their reality,” Culatta told GovTech. “That’s part of what this is as well.”

In order to achieve improved and productive learning, Culatta said, tech solutions need to be effective, and ISTE is pushing the ed-tech industry to get there.

“The tech industry [needs] to build products that are more closely aligned to principles of learning science, that are more closely aligned to principles of highly effective learning [and] user experiences, that are aligned to creating more equitable, inclusive learning environments,” Culatta said. “And so you will also see that we will be having a key push on the industry to build better stuff.”

At the same time, Culatta said that schools need to get better at the procurement process. He said many school districts ask themselves the same questions about acquiring tech tools that they would about desks and reams of paper.

“We need to help people that are making those decisions have the information that they need to make those decisions, and know the sorts of things that they should be asking,” he said.

Culatta added that the combined expertise of the organizations can accommodate information sharing for both sides, the tech companies and educators, to ensure new technologies are aiming at the needs of schools. Husk said that for schools investing in new classroom technology, acquisition is just one step, adding that professional development is imperative to making it effective.

“If you just sell new things to educators, and you don’t give them the runway, the space and the appropriate supports to learn how to implement it, you’re going to get resistance, and then you’re going to get chaos, and then you’re going to get a lot of wasted money,” Husk said.

Culatta echoed that sentiment, insisting that training is one of the main focal points of the merger.

“One of the things that we just highly, highly emphasize is that the most important factor in having a successful tech implementation is professional learning for teachers, hands down,” he said. “So that’s an area where you’re likely to see, in the future, ISTE and ASCD together, really doubling down on what the future of professional learning looks like.”
Giovanni Albanese Jr. is a staff writer for the Center for Digital Education. He has covered business, politics, breaking news and professional soccer over his more than 15-year reporting career. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Salem State University in Massachusetts.