AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Friday, during a State Board of Education hearing, the Texas Education Agency said it’s time for the state to review its long-term technology plan for schools after the pandemic vastly increased the amount of devices each student has.
TEA’s Deputy Commissioner of Technology Melody Parrish said the review would be part of a standard procedure passed by the board in 2018, which set goals for students through 2030.
“In 2018 when the State Board of Education adopted the long-range plan for education, which also has the long range plan for technology attached to it, the membership at that time requested that we revisit the technology plan every two to three years. Or when we felt like there was some kind of significant change that should be noted in the long-range plan for technology,” Parrish noted.
She said there are two areas the agency believes need to be reviewed, including the plan for devices.
“We always had a goal of trying to get to one-to-one on devices to students…Because of COVID, a lot of our schools being closed and having to have remote learning, the districts did an influx of devices,” she said. “And we believe that at this point since 3.5 million devices were purchased, that most districts are now close to a one-to-one on devices to students.”
She noted many Texas schools, pre-pandemic, were sitting at a ratio closer to four or five students per device.
“I believe that we’re probably closer, but that’s something that we want to research and we want to talk to the districts and find out how close are we to to a one to one between students and devices,” Parrish said.
Some districts are concerned because this surge of new devices will affect their future plans to maintain them.
“We do mention in the long-range plan for technology, that school districts need to be planning for refresh of their, of all of their devices, whether they’re laptops or desktops, or Chromebooks and iPads. I think we could probably give them some more guidance on what what a refresh looks like,” Parrish said.
The other component Parrish said needs to be reviewed is cybersecurity.
“Ransomware is evolving even as I’m standing here speaking,” she said. “And so we need to visit that often and make sure that our schools have the right information, so that they can mitigate any kind of risks that should happen either through cybersecurity or through ransomware.”
She said that factor, combined with how many students now have access to devices, is reason enough for the state to review its plan.
“I lay awake at night because I know all the students have devices now. And all of that data is out there. And you know, we collect all the student data here at the at the agency to for federal and state required requirements, but there’s always a risk,” Parrish said.
Parrish ended by telling the board her team will be back with recommendations.