State education leaders remain highly concerned about cybersecurity risks, according to a new survey from the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA).

According to SETDA, the 2023 State Edtech Trends Report brings together insights gathered from edtech directors, state superintendents, chiefs of staff, and other senior state officials from 45 states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), and Guam. The report is a collaboration between SETDA and Whiteboard Advisors.

“This report signifies the uniqueness of this moment in time as school systems emerge from the pandemic into a technology-rich new normal rife with opportunity but also risk. Last year’s needs have become this year’s priorities, and states are making progress in addressing these challenges,” said Julia Fallon, executive director of SETDA.

This year’s report found that cybersecurity is now the paramount concern in K-12 education, which marks an increase in priority since 2022. Additionally, 42 percent of respondents reported inadequate funding and support for cybersecurity needs. On a positive note, more state leaders (19 percent) report providing “ample funding” for cybersecurity risk mitigation, up from the 2022 finding.

“Improving K-12 cybersecurity posture has become an issue of resources and equity,” Brad Hagg, director of education technology at the Indiana Department of Education, said in the report. “Under-staffed districts and communities without access to a pipeline of cyber specialists will struggle to meet the requirements, often dictated by insurance companies, as well as the best practices necessary to implement a strong cybersecurity threat mitigation program.”

In addition to its findings regarding cybersecurity concerns, the report also highlights other top priorities and emerging trends in state education technology.

According to education leaders, Federal and state AI policies lag behind the use of AI in the classroom. Slightly more than half of respondents (55 percent) observed an increased interest in AI policy development; however, only two percent reported having active AI initiatives in their states.

Schools also have concerns about students having access to the internet at home, and insist that the issue requires more Federal and state attention. Home access connectivity jumped to the top of the list of top unmet technology needs, with nearly one-third of respondents listing it as their primary concern. SETDA said this finding underscores “the persistent impact of the digital divide on education, as students require consistent access to teachers and high-quality resources for flexible, anytime, learning.”

Education leaders also stressed the ongoing focus on edtech effectiveness. Using edtech effectively to support instruction remains a top priority for state leaders. Compared to the 2022 survey, the number of states collecting data on the effectiveness of their edtech tools has increased.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs