Does This Union Make Sense?


At the end of September, members of ISTE received an email from the president of their Board of Directors, announcing that the board had voted to merge with another educational organization, ASCD.1 I assume the ASCD mail list received a similar message.

It seems like a rather odd combination, for reasons I still can’t quite pin down.

From a wide-angle view, ISTE and ASCD appear to have a lot in common.

They’re both large, national (although with members in many other countries), non-profit organizations with missions oriented around education.

Both publish journals and lots of books, stage an annual conference that attracts tens of thousands participants, along with a variety of smaller events, and have a network of state affiliates.

But, at least in my mind, the two groups serve very different communities.

I’ve always thought of ASCD, which at one time stood for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development,2 as an organization you joined if you were a K12 administrator, or wanted to be one. I was a member for a couple of years in the 80’s, until I decided I would make a lousy school principal. I haven’t paid much attention to it since (although they still send me solicitations on occasion).

ISTE’s focus was always somewhat broader. Their purpose was to help educators use technology in any classroom, any subject, any level. I’ve been an ISTE member going back into the previous century when the journal was called The Computing Teacher and the annual event was NECC, the National Educational Computing Conference.3

Bottom line, however, the greatest attribute they share – and possibly a motivator behind this merger – is that they have both evolved into big businesses, seemingly focused more on increasing revenue than building community. Maybe also with a shrinking audience?

Anyway, just some random thoughts, and lots of questions, about this curious union.

Sometime this month the membership of both groups is supposed to vote on whether to approve this marriage. Assuming the vote is yes, it will be very interesting to see what the merged entity looks like and how it evolves in the future.

The photo is a small part of the Expo floor from the ISTE Conference in Chicago, 2018, the last one I attended in person. Gary Stager calls it the ISTE Boat Show, wondering if the organization sold it’s soul to the vendors with deep pockets. It’s something to consider in this merger.

1. I expected to find the announcement somewhere on the websites of both organizations but it’s nowhere on ASCD and only included as a short note at the top of the Board page at ISTE. Maybe it has something to do with the governance of a non-profit organization.

2. However, it’s almost impossible to find that name anywhere on their website.

3. I still have some of the old canvas bags (designed to carry pounds of handouts, t-shirts, and tchotchkes) from those events to prove it.

1 Comments Does This Union Make Sense?

  1. Jennifer

    Weirdly enough, reading your post has convinced me this merger makes more sense than I had thought. As a member of ASCD (I’m not currently an ISTE member), I did get a similar email. ASCD no longer stands for Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, that was dropped a few years back, but the acronym was too well known to let go of. They dropped that meaning because it no longer fit. The focus, in more recent years, has been more on educating the Whole Child (which includes making sure all kids are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged) and on teacher leadership and equity. It’s aimed for broader support in education in ways similar to ISTE, I think. As one who has had a love/hate relationship with both organizations, I’m cautiously optimistic about what this merger will mean.


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