A glaring absence of technology: Policy statements from national school administrator and teacher associations

You can tell a lot about an organization’s priorities from its policy advocacy goals. Below are the national policy priorities for America’s four main national school leadership associations (NAESP, NASSP, AASA, and NSBA) and two primary national teacher associations (NEA and AFT). I’ve also thrown in ASCD just for fun. Take a look at what they say is important to them (i.e., what’s worth fighting for with legislators and policymakers).

Notice the glaring absence of attention to technology-related issues. Other than some advocacy for E-Rate, there’s not much there. ASCD wins my vote for doing the best with this through its advocacy work on “educating students in a changing world.”

What are the implications for integration and implementation of digital technologies into P-12 schools when most of the national school administrator and teacher associations rank this issue low on their list of policy priorities?

1. National Association of Elementary School Principals


2. National Association of Secondary School Principals


3. American Association of School Administrators (superintendents / central office)
(see also AASA’s 2010 Legislative Agenda)


4. National School Boards Association


5. National Education Association


6. American Federation of Teachers


7. ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development)


13 Responses to “A glaring absence of technology: Policy statements from national school administrator and teacher associations”

  1. Nice post Scott, it’s great to see them all in one place like this. I think the reason why they don’t put more value on tech is because technology is a disruptive element for education. Technology almost always breeds efficiencies wherever it is used. Less staff are needed. Our school has both online and on campus programs and I can tell you first hand we need a lot less staff for the online programs. Less staff means less union members. Ergo tech = less union members = bad. In this whole education reform discussion the thing that gets mentioned the least is what would help students learn the best? This system would have collapsed a long time ago if it wasn’t being run by the government. (you can actually say that about most government operations lol)

    • I must respectfully disagree with one point you make, crudbasher. Tech is a tool. In many situations, people have been replaced by these tools (factory work being a prime example), however to say that teachers will be replaced by technology is giving technology too much credit.

      I’m all for using technology, but more importantly, I’m all about using it properly. I don’t see a situation where a teacher is replaced with technology.

      I think, as others have said, the teachers unions/associations are more concerned with some of the more prescient national issues such as standardized testing/NCLB/RTTT. I highly doubt that if you asked the majority of the members of any of these organizations if they were against technology, they would say they would love to see more technology being used.

      • Hi David,

        Thanks very much for your response! Tech is a tool that’s true. We use it for many different things everyday. If you look at the tasks a teacher does, such as presenting information, answering questions, adjusting lessons, and assessing knowledge, I think technology will gradually take over these tasks. Twenty years ago, it was hard to believe that we would all be walking around with cell phones but we are. What technology is capable of in 20 years is a matter of conjecture, but I submit if we rule out the possibility of first augmenting, then replacing teachers with computers then we are not being open minded.

        I do completely agree that technology can be used in a right way and a wrong way. Using it in a wrong way can be worse than not using it at all.

        I am not, nor have I ever been a part of a union. I work at a private college so I am prepared to be corrected on this, but all I have read and researched on this issue tells me that what the rank and file in the unions want is often not what the union leaders want. If we were to invent a technology that would improve student achievement and learning by 50% and reduce the number of teachers required by 50% and reduce costs by 50%, who would be in favor of this? Can you point to any single political proposal that would reduce the number of teachers that is backed by the unions?

        By the way, I have no problem with unions wanting more members and better pay for them. That’s their job. I just object when they claim they have the students best interests at heart by doing it.

        As I said, I thank you very much for your response!!

        • Sorry, but you’re comparing apples and oranges. Ever tried using voice recognition software? Pretty awful, isn’t it. Text to speech? Great except that it can’t tell how to pronounce “live” even in context. Consider how “simple” those tasks are, then ask yourself how well technology would do at evaluating student comprehension or skills. If you only want the Multiple Choice assessment that is currently destroying education, then full-speed on with computers replacing teachers!

          • Thanks for commenting Bill! I agree with you that multiple choice test are a poor choice in most situations for assessment needs. I remember back in the late 80s when computer graphics were first starting to be used in Hollywood. They were very primitive and many people in Hollywood said they would never take the place of traditional 2D animation. 20 years later they have pretty much. Graphics are getting so realistic that many times now in the theater you don’t even realize what you are looking at them.

            Even voice recognition is getting much better than it was. I have used it over the years and right now I believe it is 98% accurate in most cases. What if you had a computer based teacher who could teach 98% of the students. The other 2% were special needs and needed a human teacher.
            What happens then?

            Computers won’t replace teachers today. Not even in the next 5 years. But after that… All I am saying is being open to the possibility that way you aren’t blindsided when it happens. Besides, I could be wrong!

        • By the way, I have no problem with unions wanting more members and better pay for them. That’s their job. I just object when they claim they have the students best interests at heart by doing it.

          This is the heart of the issue here (and I know I’m coming late to this party). The job of the union IS to protect their members. The problem is that in the United States you have forced the unions to attempt to be so much more and because of that they have to use the rhetoric of “what is best of the children” – as so many other groups falsely do. Look at the way unions interact in countries that haven’t politicized education to the same extent you see in the United States.

          You see when you make something a political issue, the players have to react in political ways. Spin and rhetoric are clear political tools.

    • I think Andrew is correct in fingering the disruptive nature of technology, but I don’t think unions are more guilty of not welcoming the disruption than any of the other parts to the system. Unions usually mirror their districts quite closely and are actually serving as extensions of the district HR departments in most cases.

      If we’re going to pass out blame, I think a lot of needs to go to the IT folks who’ve effectively walled themselves from the teachers. Another very guilty group is the schools of education. I just met another student teaching supervisor who doesn’t have a Twitter account, is interested in learning about Moodle, and would like to try Google apps. That’s an improvement from the recent past, but hardly evidence of teaching leadership. I was very relieved that my student teacher will be permitted to submit her lesson plans via access to Google apps, which is a huge improvement from a few years ago when a student teacher was not permitted to submit lesson plans electronically even though that’s how I did it in my class.

  2. I am hardly surprised by this synthesis of priorities among the top educational associations. When you look at the content associations like NCTM, NSTA, etc. you will find that technology may not be mentioned at all. Take a closer look at their national conference programs and there may be less than 5% of workshops or presentations that include any element of technology. The question is: Who would in the technology world would like to form a coalition of presenters to develop a strategic plan to submit proposals to these national organizations and related state organizations? We technologists need to commit to turn the tide of irrelevancy in these organizations. If you would like to be a part of this coalition, please respond to this comment. Remember, there is power in numbers.

  3. I hope the irony of the connection between your two latest posts does not escape your readers.

  4. To answer your question, Scott, the lack of an explicit mention of technology in *policy* priorities might just acknowledge that federal legislation is neither the greatest catalyst nor the biggest obstacle to tech integration in schools. Sure, NASSP has signed onto EETT letters and our gov’t relations director spends a good deal of her time on NCTET board duties. But you and I are both very familiar with the issues that keep tech integration from happening widely–and few of them can be legislated effectively. This priority, then, is better reflected in our efforts to get principals to incorporate technology into their school-improvement vision than in any legislative policy statement. A few highlights:

    – NASSP’s signature school improvement framework Breaking Ranks includes among its key recommendations that technology be “integral to curriculum, instruction, and assessment, accommodating different learning styles, and helping teachers to individualize and improve the learning process.”

    – The Annual NASSP Conference dedicates a strand specifically to technology leadership–as much to assert the importance of the theme as to organize content. Past presenters include Chris Lehmann, Stephanie Sandifer, Peggy Sheehy, Don Knezek, Gary Stager, and in 2011…well…you. Not a lightweight lineup.

    – In 2010, NASSP teamed with the Pearson Foundation to bring a day-long mobile learning institute to our conference to get principals to consider how cell phones can be used in instruction. No other topic received that level of attention.

    All that said, you can anticipate some more explicit policy statements in this area, as the NASSP Board recently approved the development of a position statement encouraging the integration of social media tools in instruction. So stay tuned. In the meantime, please recognize that policy priorities are just one set of priorities articulated for a specific purpose and not the totality of our efforts.

    Bob Farrace, NASSP Communications Director

  5. Take off the blinders Scott. Most teachers are desperately trying to find time to actually teach their content area around all of the NCLB/standardized testing circus. I lost over 20 instructional days to that last year. There are far more pressing issues to address and changes to make than deciding on which shiny new toys we should get.

  6. Isn’t expecting tech to show up in these lists a little bit like having the cake and eating it too? We want tech to be seen as ubiquitous and integrated into every subject. Doesn’t that mean that it has to fit into the higher aspirations of these groups at every turn? Why ask to be marginalized?

    It also seems perfectly normal to me that as you say, “what’s worth fighting for with legislators and policymakers” is 90% funding and policy. Why should tech be on these lists?

  7. I think it’s only fair to note that NSBA’s Technology Leadership Network supports the integration of technology by bringing together district boards, administrators, and technology staff. An option for NSBA members, this is a good way to make the connection with technology related issues.

    More about TLN at http://www.nsba.org/SecondaryMenu/TLN.aspx.

Leave a Reply