A new analysis of K-12 school district spending bolsters the notion that many ed-tech products and software purchased aren’t actually used or don’t have the intended impact.
Ed-tech company Glimpse K12 studied $2 billion in school spending and found that on average, 67 percent of educational software product licenses go unused. Glimpse K12 tracked 200,000 curriculum software licenses purchased by 275 schools during the 2017-2018 school year. The analysis found educational software was the biggest source of wasted spending in K-12 districts.
In some districts, up to 90 percent of purchased software licenses are not being used, said Glimpse K12 co-founder Adam Pearson. The analysis estimates that overall, the districts studied are losing about $2 million on these products throughout the school year.
In the U.S. K-12 education marketplace, where districts spend about $8.4 billion on ed-tech software a year according to the Software and Information Industry Association, that could mean over $5.6 billion wasted annually.
“This information is both insightful and alarming,” Pearson said. “We want it to help schools identify which resources are not effective, and which resources may be underutilized, and which with greater use” may improve student outcomes.
Better PD, and Making Goals Clear
Pearson said this data can help education leaders make smarter decisions about the ed-tech products they buy and retain. Some districts may decide to pare back the number of educational software licenses they purchase, for example, freeing up funds for other educational spending or initiatives, he said.
Glimpse K12 says its product also allows educators to link their ed-tech usage to student achievement information and goals to determine whether those tools are having the desired impact.
That information can help school and district leaders decide whether more professional development is needed around an effective piece of software to boost its usage, the company says. Or it could tell them that they need better communication goals around these tools, or that they need to home in on why software is not being used. A lack of devices or weak internet connectivity can contribute to low usage numbers, he said.
In fact, a new nationwide survey from Common Sense Media found that 31 percent of educators say they’re not able to use technology because of a lack of training, and 63 percent of teachers said district communication about the educational technology available for classroom use is moderate or non-existent.
Districts are increasingly tracking their usage of ed-tech products and using that information to determine whether to renew or scrap contracts. And a number of ed-tech companies, like Glimpse K12, are offering their services in monitoring usage to districts, with the promise of helping them get a handle on where they are paying for products and services that teachers and students aren’t using. LearnPlatform—among others companies—helps educators monitor usage data around ed-tech products.
Last year Mary Wermers, the K-12 curriculum director for the 3,500-student Danvers, Mass. school district told EdWeek Market Brief that information she gleaned through the use of LearnPlatform helped her determine where to spend professional development dollars, evaluate costs and determine future use of some ed-tech products.
“I was amazed at the differences in prices of applications and used this platform to evaluate whether a product is worth the cost,” she said.
Pearson, of Glimpse K12, said more districts are becoming aware of the importance of tracking usage data.
“Administrators are saying, ‘We’re investing millions of dollars into technology and we need to make sure we’re getting the benefit,’” he said. “The national conversation on this headed in the right direction.”