School districts have always hinged on crystalline policies and procedures for their staff and students, especially around performance. These directives serve as the backbone for systematic order and strategic planning. While the district establishes some, other policies are mandated by State and Federal law. It is the job of the Board of Education to uphold these policies and procedures, and they often revisit them for timeliness and effectiveness.
In the Golden Age of EdTech, many districts likely felt they were navigating without a compass when acquiring and implementing EdTech resources. An example of this rapid adoption can be seen in the Norwalk Public Schools in Connecticut, where EdTech tools soared during the pandemic. More than 3,000 apps were accessed during the 2021 school year, compared to just 183 in the 2018-2019 academic year. Most of these apps lacked formal district approval, as they were often provided to educators as part of a free trial during remote learning.
However, with an increasing number of administrators now scrutinizing EdTech through a more discerning lens, the moment has arrived for schools to construct a robust blueprint for tech integration. Since district leaders are consistently gauging staff and student performance, it's only fitting for them to create a refined evaluation system for EdTech and not just an Acceptable Use Policy. They must establish specific metrics that define adequate data usage and efficacy for teachers and students. The question is: what are the metrics to measure them?
As administrators look for ways to improve student outcomes, they must also be mindful of the effectiveness of their EdTech investments. School districts can ensure that their EdTech resources are used effectively and efficiently by creating a comprehensive evaluation system.
The first step in creating an effective evaluation system is establishing clear metrics for measuring success. These metrics should include data on teacher and student usage and efficacy. It's not enough for a tool to be theoretically effective - it should also be widely adopted and used by the intended beneficiaries.
In the initial stages of tech adoption, school administrators need to adopt the mindset of an EdTech investor. After all, administrators are investing in these tools at a hefty cost. A case in point is the Mississippi Department of Education spending millions on a virtual tutoring service. Despite educators singing its praises, the data painted a different picture - it was not a hit among students. This instance highlights the urgency for districts to evaluate not just the theoretical effectiveness of a tool but also its actual deployment. A tool's potential is only realized if it's actively used.
One prominent (and successful) EdTech investor always asks to see the company's customer retention rates. His magic number? 90%. After all, satisfied customers are more likely to continue using the product, and a high retention rate indicates that the EdTech solution is delivering value and meeting the needs of educators and students alike. District leaders should always ask to see the vendors' current data on student and teacher usage and retention rates, and more importantly, they should gather this information from districts similar in size, class composition, and demographics.
Here are 15 questions every school district should ask during the initial planning stages:
Review this data with your team against the current tools within the district when the vendors provide it. Also, consider adopting an EdTech rubric to evaluate its efficacy within the needs of your school district.
Future considerations should include:
Collecting and analyzing data regularly will help determine whether or not the EdTech resources are meeting the needs of teachers and students. Additionally, data can inform future decisions about which EdTech resources should be adopted or discontinued.
Once clear metrics have been established, school districts must develop a process for collecting and analyzing that data. This process should involve teachers and administrators to ensure that all perspectives are considered when evaluating EdTech resources. When possible, it should include feedback from students about how they perceive the effectiveness of these tools in improving their learning experience.
School districts must develop a plan using the data collected from their evaluation system to make informed decisions about which EdTech resources are most effective for their district's needs. This plan should include strategies for using the data to inform future decisions about which technologies should be adopted or discontinued. Additionally, it should guide how best to use existing technologies to maximize their impact on student learning outcomes.
By taking a comprehensive approach to evaluating their EdTech resources, school districts can make informed decisions about which technologies will best meet their needs and help them achieve their educational goals. This approach leads to a more discerning technology investment that increases staff engagement while lessening initiative fatigue. Furthermore, it's fiscally responsible. The process and results provide transparency to the community and Board of Education, increasing support and buy-in.
Lastly, school districts can make wise investments in technology that benefit teachers and students by establishing clear metrics for measuring success and developing a process for collecting and analyzing this data.
Ready to make your next EdTech investment? Sparkrock 365 might be the perfect solution for your school district. We offer an all-in-one finance, HR, payroll, and scheduling solution purpose-built for school boards and districts. Our modern ERP system offers a user-friendly interface and robust features, empowering administrators with powerful data and analytics.
We'd love to share what we've learned and help you plan for your next technology investment. Reach out and speak with one of our education product consultants today!
If you're not ready to chat, we encourage you to browse our education resources and view our 7-min demo to see if our product might fit your school district. No need to wait to schedule a meeting; sign up and watch on your own time.
Is your school district at risk of losing its valuable educators?
According to a recent survey, a staggering 65% of educators have been actively browsing other job opportunities in the past year. In normal times, district leadership would find that unsettling. During an unprecedented teacher shortage?
Employee expectations are on the rise. Workforce expectations shifted dramatically, and now employees want more from their employers. In a post-pandemic world, more people are asking for:
And yet, schools are constrained by contracted salaries, limited funding for perks, and zero flexibility when it comes to the time and place of work. With these limitations and soaring student behavioral issues, teachers feel drained and overwrought, all significant contributors to a toxic workplace.
So what can be done to meet rising employee expectations?
The solution is simple: Improve the employee experience.
Many people still believe that employee experience is all about perks, but it's much more than that. It's about communication, culture, being heard, and being supported professionally and personally. Improving the employee experience will increase:
These things aren't only on the minds of employees. Teacher recruitment, staff well-being, and retention are top priorities for K-12 human resources professionals. The Director of Human Resources is integral to the functioning of the school district. They can be one of the most influential in improving the employee experience by helping leaders shift from a transactional to a human-first approach.
Here are three ways that the Director of HR can improve employee experience:
Communication is vital to building trust and respect in the workplace. HR has an essential role in creating a welcoming and inclusive work environment. The Director of HR can facilitate relationship-building with employees by engaging in personalized employee experience conversations.
These conversations can help HR:
An intentional plan for how the conversation will proceed will make the discussion productive. For example, HR could initiate the conversation by acknowledging the employee's contributions to the school district. This discussion can be followed by exploring the employee's interests in professional growth. Finally, the Director of HR can collaborate with the employee on a plan to support them with necessary resources and follow-up conversations.
Meaningful, transparent communication will build trust and respect between staff and central administration. In turn, fostering a culture of trust and respect will positively impact the overall school environment.
An engaged workforce is more likely to be:
But how do you boost engagement when teachers have never been more exhausted? The answer is prioritizing employee recognition. Recognizing staff members' contributions and hard work can help them feel valued and motivated to strive for excellence.
Though well-intentioned, recognition must be more than just an all-staff email appreciation or an assembly shout-out. It needs to be timely, specific, and authentic.
Teachers and school staff frequently work outside contracted hours and support their students by attending games, concerts, musicals, and other extracurricular activities. In-person or handwritten acknowledgments of these efforts are highly effective. Writing a personalized thank-you note or showing gratitude in person can go a long way in boosting morale.
San Diego Unified School District created a successful employee recognition program, a platform that allows teachers to receive awards from their peers, administrators, and even parents. This strategy allowed them to promote a culture of appreciation and recognition that benefited both employees and the district.
Recognizing and acknowledging the contributions of staff members will help prevent burnout. It can also increase their motivation to continue going above and beyond for their students.
87% of millennials rate "professional or career growth and development opportunities" as important to them in a job. And yet, more than half of districts do not provide or offer teachers coursework to improve their teaching. A Director of HR that prioritizes opportunities for professional growth will have a more profound impact on employee experience.
HR directors can provide professional development support by offering opportunities for ongoing learning, such as:
In addition to offering training opportunities, the HR Director can provide instructional coaching to help teachers improve their teaching techniques and classroom management skills. An example can be pairing teachers with experienced mentors who can offer feedback, guidance, and support. Coaching programs can be delivered through professional learning communities, where teachers can collaborate with peers and learn from others' experiences.
Schools can also look to other districts for inspiration on how they provide professional development programs. The Los Angeles Unified School District provides teachers with access to resources such as workshops, seminars, and online courses that help them stay up-to-date on best practices in teaching. This district also offers mentorship opportunities with experienced educators who can guide them in improving their teaching skills. By providing these resources, LAUSD has fostered an environment of growth and learning for its teachers.
HR directors can also encourage staff growth by creating a culture of continuous improvement and upskilling. By fostering an environment where educators feel comfortable taking risks and trying new strategies, HR directors can promote a growth mindset that encourages staff to improve their skills and knowledge continually.
Employees want to know that their input is valued and considered. It's evident to educators when district leaders are talking the talk but not walking the walk.
Show employees you're committed to improving employee experience by:
Building a great employee experience within an organization requires the right modern technology. This is where an ERP system comes into play. By leveraging the power of data, particularly in the HR module of an ERP system, organizations can unlock valuable insights that contribute to their understanding of employees' needs, preferences, and performance.
With the ability to collect and analyze employee data, including demographics, compensation details, performance evaluations, training history, and attendance records, an ERP system equips organizations with the necessary tools to make informed decisions. By harnessing the potential of this technology, organizations can implement targeted strategies, foster a positive work environment, boost employee engagement, and ultimately drive overall organizational success.
To help plan your next technology investment, read the in-depth guide to our product, Sparkrock 365. Let us take you through the benefits of integrating HR management with finances, payroll, scheduling, and the key features we've built to help K-12s thrive.
What happens when US public education experiences the most seismic shift of funds ever seen?
As school district leaders and administrators face the looming expiration of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds in 2023 and 2024, many are taking a hard look at their bottom line.
School administrators are much more selective regarding educational products and curricula. They want viable tech resources with high adoption and customer retention rates. With the unstable economy, teacher shortages, and expiring funding, districts have pumped the brakes on their heavy-handed pandemic spending. Schools must exercise even more discernment in how they allocate resources moving forward. An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution can assist school districts in being more than ready for the drying up of federal funds.
Congress passed three pieces of legislation due to the pandemic: CARES Act, CRSSA Act, and ARP. Each legislation has its own ESSER fund: ESSER I, II, and III, respectively. These funds must be obligated by September 2022, 2023, and 2024.
ESSER funds provide support to K-12 public schools. Many districts used ESSER funds to purchase technology for remote learning, improve air ventilation and filtration systems, and hire additional staff members. While it's not necessarily a shock to district leaders that these funds have an expiration date, they will need to begin planning now to:
With a recession, districts must tread carefully in using funds to pay for personnel. According to EdWeek Market Brief, educational consultants advise school districts to spend their funding sources on infrastructure and large, one-time costs instead of ongoing salaries and benefits for staff positions.
The best predictor of what's to come is to examine past funding cliffs in the wake of a cooling economy. This phenomenon has been around for a while, and districts have had to pull at their purse strings to bear the brunt of a funding freeze and recession.
During the Great Recession of 2008, many states experienced significant budget cuts, leading to many funding cliffs. Many schools struggled to maintain programs and services, leading to teacher layoffs and larger class sizes. New York state, for example, was forced to cut education spending, which led to widespread layoffs of teachers and school staff, larger class sizes, and program cuts. In 2009, the Rochester City School District laid off over 200 teachers due to budget cuts. These budget cuts and layoffs didn't end in one year, either. The New York City public school system made significant cuts in the following years, with a proposed dismissal of over 4,000 positions.
So what does this mean for public education in the next five years? Some dark days may be ahead without careful financial planning and school management. Thankfully there are resources to drive better decision-making for schools now. Most districts lacked the proper technology back in 2008; fortunately, that's not the case today.
According to a survey conducted by McKinsey, more than 90 percent of districts have yet to use even half of their funding. Based on this survey, they predict that:
"Nearly $20 billion in ESSER funds may not be obligated by the deadline because of various factors, including administrative hurdles, limited internal planning capacity, and talent and vendor shortages."
When making level-headed decisions with limited planning capacity, an ERP solution can help a great deal. ERPs help school districts plan strategically and efficiently by providing comprehensive, real-time data on the following:
This vital data helps school districts make empowered, data-driven decisions that optimize resources and allocate funding where needed most.
School districts can save costs and maximize outcomes by identifying areas where resources can be better aligned and used, including staffing, facilities, and supplies. An ERP solution can help school districts identify underutilized resources and optimize them to their fullest potential or help eliminate excess weight.
Financial planning becomes more effective with an ERP solution because all financial data integrates into one system. School districts can easily track budget and expenditure data and ensure well-managed finances. In turn, this helps them be better prepared for funding cliffs. Now they can efficiently manage their funds for optimal use. Additionally, with more significant financial insights, districts can plan multi-year budgets in the wake of financial constraints.
An ERP solution creates an environment where data is readily available and accessible. This data can inform financial decisions and resource allocation and identify cost-saving opportunities. With real-time data, administrators can readily view the financials and inform decision-making on fees, asset acquisition, construction, or other initiatives.
An ERP solution can automate repetitive administrative tasks such as contractor management, time-sheet management, and excursion approval. Freeing up valuable resources minimizes time-consuming, mundane tasks so administrators can focus on more impactful, strategic projects. The time saved on administrative work allows district leaders to invest in maintaining effective student engagement and educational programming, even during a funding cliff.
An ERP solution can enhance communication between schools, districts, and other stakeholders. School districts can use grant money management and communication tools to maintain, engage and communicate with organizations and alternative funding sources. Monetary efforts and goals can also be tracked and managed with these resources.
An ERP solution is a valuable tool that can help school districts prepare for funding cliffs. It allows administrators to allocate their resources more thoughtfully and strategically to have the greatest impact on any student's educational experience. Staff can see the real-time status of funding projects as improvements and additions are being managed, and these necessities can be prioritized with complete transparency. With the help of an ERP solution, educators and administrators can plan for successful, sustainable educational programming within their budgets, despite funding cuts.
In addition to these benefits, an ERP solution can also increase data accuracy and transparency, enabling more ethical management practices. This is especially useful in the face of tighter funding-- administrators can learn to do more with less. Employee retention climbs as benefits and features become more tailored to district needs. With dynamic planning, budgeting, and budget projection tools within an ERP solution, district management can make determinations that lead their school to success and sustainability.
To help plan your next technology investment, read the in-depth guide to our product, Sparkrock 365. Let us take you through the benefits of integrating HR management with finances, payroll, scheduling, and the key features we've built to help K-12s thrive.
School district leaders understand the value of attending EdTech conferences. These conferences offer resources to help school districts meet their overarching strategic goals. Though sometimes costly and time-consuming, these conferences provide insights into cutting-edge technologies and vetted solution providers. Hearing from industry experts and networking with colleagues from other schools inspire administrators to address their district's unique needs with innovation.
While EdTech conferences can cut into a district leader's time and resources, they're still vital to helping schools reach their goals. That's why administrators need to plan out their EdTech conference attendance.
Careful preparation and coordination are necessary to get the most from these events. Data from your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system can help create the most intuitive plan. An ERP solution allows organizations to combine siloed applications and systems to:
ERPs can empower district administrators to attend educational conferences with more significant insights. This will ultimately benefit their school and align critical resources with their strategic goals. After all, better data leads to better outcomes.
In one study by Deloitte, organizations that use ERP systems saw improvements in efficiency, decision-making, and scalability. With this in mind, using an ERP to guide conference attendance can help districts become more efficient and effective in meeting their goals.
EdTech conferences can be overwhelming. Knowing where to focus attention can be tricky with many sessions, speakers, and vendors. School districts likely have specific goals they want to achieve from conference attendance, like addressing teacher burnout or improving student outcomes. Without validating these goals with data, conference attendance becomes scattered and disconnected.
An ERP system helps administrators refine their conference goals with insights into past performance metrics. This information makes spotting areas for improvement much more effortless. Once this happens, administrators can readily analyze data on
When seeking out viable solutions for their schools, administrators can now prioritize the sessions and vendors that can significantly impact their strategic goals.
District leaders often create impactful school-wide initiatives, but they can quickly become "top-down" approaches. When initiatives come from the top, no matter how well-intentioned or evidence-based they are, they can be met with resistance from teachers. Teachers are burnt out and want to feel supported. Educators want a seat at the table regarding decisions directly affecting their autonomy and pedagogy. An ERP system enables administrators to involve key stakeholders in decision-making by providing critical data, building consensus, and delivering positive results.
Here are four ways for districts to use their ERP to build better buy-in and solidify their goals:
Before attending any conferences, define what the district wants to achieve. Schools can use their ERP system to analyze data on performance indicators such as student achievement and teacher performance.
District leaders can develop a plan for attending conferences based on their overarching goals. After generating a report and identifying areas for improvement, match the program's vendors and presentations that best align with these goals. Plan out a specific schedule with questions for available solutions. Identifying sessions and vendors well in advance will ensure you can access insights and resources that best meet your district's needs.
Before making any purchase decisions, an ERP can help in better understanding resource allocation. An ERP system can determine any overlapping or duplicate resources and current adoption rates amongst staff members. After conferences, school administrators can use their ERP system to analyze the data collection. They can see how well different solution providers match the needs of their schools.
The administration can communicate with staff members about their conference attendance beforehand. In doing so, district leaders can receive input on what sessions and vendors would be most valuable to the classroom teachers and building principals. District leaders actively involving teachers and staff in the conference attendance process are more likely to develop a well-rounded and effective plan. Additionally, open communication can reduce resistance and ensure teachers feel supported in decision-making.
School administrators drive change based on the decisions they make. An ERP system helps them make the best decisions for their staff. Attending EdTech conferences is a wise investment for districts looking to improve student achievement and meet their strategic goals. By using an ERP solution to analyze data and make informed decisions, district leaders can maximize the value they receive from these events. This powerful needs-based and cost-saving tool allows administrators to confidently plan their conferences and make informed decisions about implementing new ideas and technology.
If you're new to Sparkrock 365, dive into our comprehensive guide to learn more about our K-12 optimized solution, built on Microsoft's cloud platform - Business Central. Discover how integrating HR management with finances, payroll, scheduling, and other key features can empower K-12 institutions to thrive. Explore the possibilities today!