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Report: Many Educators Don’t Feel Ready for Online Summative Assessments

SIIA's annual survey reveals K-12 institutions lack technology needed for online, summative assessments, but schools are making improvements in the use of tech tools for decision-making and student access to digital content online.

Many K-12 educators do not feel "highly prepared" for online, summative assessments in 2014, according to the most recent annual survey by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA).

For the first time, the SIIA Vision K-20 survey asked US-based K-12 participants about the level of institutional preparation for online, summative assessments from a technology perspective. "We thought the Common Core was the elephant in the room, so we decided to ask educators how prepared they felt so we could compare that with what some of the consortia are saying," said Karen Billings, vice president of the SIIA Education Division, which represents more than 180 companies that provide software, digital content, and other technologies that address educational needs.

Nearly 60 percent of respondents expressed concern about adequate Internet bandwidth, although less than one-quarter reporting low levels of preparedness. Overall, K-12 institutions were even more concerned having adequate devices and hardware for students for online, summative assessments. The percentage of respondents who reported feeling highly prepared ranged from 32 percent in elementary schools to 36 percent in secondary schools.

The SIIA Vision K-20 survey was first developed by SIIA and its partners in 2007, piloted in 2008, and conducted every year since 2009. This year it surveyed almost 1,000 people, 88 percent of whom were K-12 educators and administrators. The survey also transitioned from a four-point to a seven-point benchmarking scale. As in past years, it asked respondents to compare their current level of technology integration to an imagined ideal state in a number of areas. Only 22 percent of K-12 participants report their current level of technology integration as high.

BYOD Expected to Increase

One survey area found increasing usage of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and a decrease in restrictions on the use of mobile devices over last year. Mobile devices continue to gain greater acceptance at the secondary level than the elementary level, following similar findings in 2013. Secondary school participants who are currently allowing BYOD, or will within one year, increased from 60 percent in 2013 to 66 percent in 2014, while elementary and K-12 district participants remained static (at 31 percent and 59 percent, respectively).

Respondents indicated that in the next five years their institutions will allow more BYOD at all education levels. The K-12 participants forecast an ongoing increase in the use of BYOD with 83 percent of secondary, 70 percent of elementary and 77 percent of K-12 district participants saying mobile devices will be allowed within the next five years. Laptops, tablets and e-readers are the most commonly permitted devices in the classroom. "The growth in the use of tablets, many of them reasonably priced, has had the biggest effect," Billings noted.

Higher Expectations

A number of benchmarks saw statistically significant increases in ideal scores over 2013, which SIIA said may indicate increasing expectations for technology integration. These include:

  • Information systems are used to establish educational accountability.
  • Assessments measure students' technology skills and competencies.
  • Educators have access to the level of technology training common to other professionals.

The benchmarks with the smallest gaps between current and ideal for K-12 participants involve security tools used to protect student data and online privacy. To qualify for E-Rate funding, schools have had to comply with regulations such as the Children's Internet Protection Act, Billings pointed out, so it is not surprising that they have prioritized security tools. Other areas of strength in the survey include the use of information systems to track institutional data and technology tools for budgeting, suggesting increasing sophistication in terms of administrative systems.

Respondents also noted significant improvements in the level of student access to digital educational content online and institution leaders using technology tools for decision-making.

Among K-12 participants, the largest gaps between current and ideal integration involve technology training, learning management systems and e-portfolios.

As it has in past years, the survey indicated that educators have a desire to integrate technology at a much higher level than they currently have, but they need support and assistance to make that happen. "When teachers start using new devices, they realize how much is possible and it makes them hungry to do more," Billings said.

The full report can be downloaded for free at the SIIA site.

About the Author

David Raths is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer focused on information technology. He writes regularly for several IT publications, including Healthcare Informatics and Government Technology.

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