Equity & IT Trends
States Follow Haphazard Standards to Collect Student Device and Internet Access Data
- By Dian Schaffhauser
a lot of districts and schools struggled on their own during the
early months of the pandemic to come up with ways to figure out which
of their students needed access to computing gear and broadband, the
Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA)
has had a better idea: Why not come up with a standardized way to
collect that information that local education agencies can turn to
when the need arises?
understand the scope of the problem, SETDA, in partnership with Dell,
recently published the results of a survey among state education
agencies that examined how states measure digital equity. The
survey focused on the 2020-2021 school year and ran from December
2020 through January 2021. A total of 34 states and the territory of
7 in 10 states (68%) reported collecting data of any
type, with 92% of respondents reporting that they gathered
information about device access and almost all asking for data about
home broadband. Just 24% required that districts provide this data,
while the others requested it. Three-quarters of states (73%) said
they had received a high response rate (70% or higher) to data
participants noted a number of hurdles that prevent them from doing
this kind of data collection: needing legislative approval; lacking
agency capacity and/or infrastructure to store the data; and concerns
over privacy and data security.
That said, more than
half of state agencies noted that they have a timeline for collecting
data, and another quarter plan to collect it but have not set
specific deadlines. Of concern, the report's authors observed, 26%
still have no plans to collect connectivity data.
During the same
timeframe that schools and districts were sorting out their digital
equity access needs, the Council
of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) was developing
a national standard for data collection, encompassed under its
program. While many states indicated that they plan to adopt the
CCSSO standard, most said they would continue using their
The data elements
suggested for collection by the CCSSO included:
appropriateness to learning needs;
download speeds; and
ability to support remote and blended learning models.
used the report to "strongly encourage" adoption of a
common framework for gathering local device and
"Closing the digital divide
requires committed teamwork among local and state leaders, private
telecommunications carriers, families and communities," the
report stated. "And the first step to ensure the targeting of
solutions where we most need them is to have uniform data and
collection practices across every state."
Access Survey Report" offered a number of
recommendations for state education leaders, among them:
Using the CCSSO
tools to create a "uniformity of questions and response
consistent and frequent methods for collecting data"; and
there's some level of verification of the data, to confirm that the
school or district is telling "the whole story" regarding
its device and access status.
The report is openly
the SETDA website.
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.