North Carolina edtech leader Tracy Weeks to lead SETDA

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Tracy Weeks is about to impart her love of computers and technology to a wider audience.

The former high school math teacher is gearing up to take on a new role as executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, which she will assume on Feb. 16, she said in an interview with EdScoop.

Weeks will fill the role after a yearlong search for a permanent head of the 15-year-old association, a nonprofit coalition of state agency leaders who advocate for improving education through technology policy. Doug Levin, now an edtech consultant, stepped down last February and was replaced by an interim director.

Weeks, 42, is currently the first Chief Academic and Digital Learning Officer for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, where she has overseen digital learning in the state for the last two years. With more than a decade of experience in instructional technology, she already has a strong grasp of SETDA’s mission.

“The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has always been a strong member and partner with SETDA,” Weeks said. “The cool thing that I’ll be able to bring to the table is that I’m actually coming from the position as a state leader. I come from the perspective of sitting in the seat of the members that we serve.”

SETDA is based in the D.C. area, but Weeks said she will work remotely from North Carolina.

The association, which will hold its next policy conference in April, also works with the U.S. Department of Education on certain projects and initiatives. “Congratulations @tracyweeks on your new role leading @SETDA. Looking forward to working with you!” tweeted Katrina Stevens, deputy director of the Office of Educational Technology. (Stevens declined to be interviewed for this article.)

Weeks, a self-described “data geek,” has observed firsthand how hard numbers can measure and improve student achievement through a database she supervised in North Carolina called Home Base.

The personalized learning program serves as a student information, educator evaluation and instructional improvement system, through which teachers can assess the performance of different students and then customize lessons accordingly.

Weeks said that advocating for state agencies to fund and access educational technology is one of the key priorities for SETDA, especially as the Every Student Succeeds Act gets implemented. State officials are waiting to hear more about how to utilize more than $2 billion in federal funds for professional development and personalized learning programs.

“This is a great time to be transitioning into the new Every Student Succeeds Act,” Weeks said. “We’ll be working with our state agencies, both to advocate for policies and rules that come out of the ESSA, and also provide guidance.”

For Weeks, the key to personalized learning is not to simply replace traditional tools with technology and broadband, but to use technology effectively.

Weeks also spent two years leading the North Carolina Virtual Public School, a supplementary program serving brick-and-mortar schools in the state. Weeks said she doesn’t agree with education advocates who are concerned that students are overloaded with machines.

“Personalized learning does not mean that every student has to be in front of the computer all the time,” Weeks said. “Many of our virtual teachers are reaching out to their students and having individual conversations every single week. They get to know what the students’ passions are, what they like to do and how they learn best.”

Weeks still remembers the thrill she and her fifth-grade classmates got when they first caught a glimpse of the Apple IIe computer in the 1980s. When she was eight years old, she wrote her first program in BASIC, a coding language that was popular back then.

“We always had a computer in our house,” Weeks said. “It’s just something that I grew up with and always enjoyed.”

Reach the reporter at yizhu.wang@edscoop.com and follow her on Twitter @yizhuevy.

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