Establishing a State-Level Technology Needs Assessment Process
The Importance of Establishing a State-Level Technology
State education leaders play a critical role in supporting school districts to close the home learning gap for their students. The first step in providing adequate and targeted support is quantifying and qualifying which students lack connectivity and/or devices. By gathering this data, state leaders will be more effective in addressing several challenges:
With good data policy leaders can persuade Congress to act to close the home-access gap.
With better insights into demand, state education leaders can direct effective purchasing techniques.
State leaders will have a better understanding of where the areas of highest need are, thereby giving them more accuracy in allocating funds to the right initiatives, communities, and school districts.
Best Practice Guidance
It’s difficult to advise school districts on home-access gaps due to inconsistent data. By collecting data in a standardized, central way, they can set the model for best practices and provide an accurate picture of connectivity gaps in their state.
Considerations for Data Collection at a State-Level
START BY DEFINING DATA REQUIREMENTS
Before jumping into and developing collection methods, it is important to define the specific pieces of data needed to assess the gap, such as:
- What data is needed to inform decisions and solutions?
- What level of specificity is needed (e.g. student level, address level)?
- What additional demographic or directory data is needed to understand trends?
To understand and establish a dataset on the students lacking access in your state, we advise including the following standardized fields:
- Grade Level
- Home Address
- Does the student have internet access at home? (Y/N)
- Does the student have a dedicated learning device? (Y/N)
To establish sufficiency of access, you might include standardized fields such as:
- Download and upload speeds
- Service Provider
- Mobile vs. fixed service
- Device type (phone, tablet, laptop)
CONSIDER THE DATA SOURCE
Many states start by surveying districts to gauge the number of students who lack access. The issue with this approach is that school districts struggle to identify the students who lack access to the internet or a dedicated learning device at home due to:
- Inaccurate responses
- Inefficient collection process
- Incomplete datasets
If your state primarily relies on school districts to report data, remember that during this time there may be inconsistencies. Keep a line of open communication with school districts to understand their challenges so that you can work to alleviate them in the future.
STATE LEADERS CAN IMPROVE DATA QUALITY AT ALL LEVELS
States can improve their own decision making and best support school districts by providing data collection best practices and encouraging consistency.
- Provide tools and guidance for school districts to do the data collection themselves, rather than surveying districts. By getting the data collection right at the district-level, state leaders will not only alleviate some of the efficiency challenges that districts are facing, they will also be able to aggregate more accurate data at the state level.
- Make data collection on home connectivity and device access a regular practice. Districts and states already collect a lot of information on their students. Whether those students have access to the internet and a dedicated learning device at home are essential components of their profile. By building those data fields into Student Information Systems and encouraging regular collection in conjunction with processes like registration or enrollment.
- Consider a fully integrated collection strategy that allows aggregation at the district and state level. States that have implemented a state-wide Student Information System, for example, have the opportunity to establish consistent fields to capture home connectivity and device status in those systems across districts. Establishing consistent data collection through the registration Districts are the local experts in direct contact with students and parents, making it easier for them to complete outreach. However, by partnering with those districts using standardized templates, questions, and collection methods, states can use their resources to analyze the data and spot larger trends. This combined effort can help illuminate potential solutions to close connectivity gaps for students no matter their location.
With access to accurate data, state education leaders can advocate, budget, and implement connectivity solutions in partnership with school districts. View our interactive map and resources for state education leaders to continue supporting students in your state.