Special Report
Classroom Technology

Colo. System Lets Individual Schools Shape Ed-Tech Buying

By Benjamin Herold — April 13, 2015 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The 24,000-student Academy School District 20 in Colorado Springs, Colo., has long prioritized site-based autonomy for principals.

So when Diane Quarles-Naghi, a local principal, decided that ST Math was the best blended-learning math software for her school, Pioneer Elementary, it was up to her to figure out how to make the purchase happen.

“I loved the program,” said Ms. Quarles-Naghi, now in her 16th year as a school leader. “But I could not have paid for it out of my budget from the district. It’s pretty costly.”

The software, formally known as Spatial-Temporal Math and created by the MIND Research Institute, focuses on visual, game-based mathematics instruction. ST Math is perhaps best known for its central character: JiJi, an animated penguin that students must navigate through obstacles by solving math problems. Schools are typically expected to let students use the software for 90 minutes per week, often in some kind of “rotational” blended-learning model in which children spend regular time in computer labs or on personal devices.

The MIND Research Institute typically charges schools a large upfront fee to get started with the program, then a smaller recurring annual fee to continue.

In the case of Pioneer Elementary, that meant Ms. Quarles-Naghi had to come up with $11,000 to bring the software to her entire school.

That became possible when Pioneer was designated a whole-school Title I building prior to this academic year.

Common Reasons for Failure

Even procurement experts who believe in school-based decisionmaking acknowledge that it can be difficult for school leaders to meaningfully evaluate whether a software program is as effective as its vendor claims. Decisions made on first impressions and word-of-mouth referrals can easily end in disaster.

And when school-based software adoptions fail, specific factors are typically to blame, said James P. Lund, the vice president of education success for the MIND Research Institute, who oversees training and support for schools and districts implementing ST Math.

Two Approaches to Buying Blended Math Software:

Districts Weigh Control Over Software Buying

D.C. Favors Centralized, but Flexible Ed-Tech Buying

“It’s usually because whoever was initially involved in the purchase decision didn’t fully understand their school’s technical capabilities,” Mr. Lund said. “Either they don’t have the bandwidth or enough computers or projectors for teachers to use the software correctly.”

Academy School District 20 has safeguards against such potential problems.

The district’s information-technology staff, for example, will evaluate any proposed software purchase to make sure that the school’s network can support it, that the program is compatible with the district’s operating system, and that other options were considered.

It’s not a “free for all,” said J. Thomas Gregory, the district’s chief financial officer.

Neither is it a particularly efficient system, he added.

The district sometimes loses out on volume-based purchasing discounts, for example, and it can be challenging for IT staff to manage and support the panoply of hardware and software that different schools use.

But site-based software procurement allows schools to be more responsive to student needs and helps principals to better accommodate the desires of parents and skills of their staff, Mr. Gregory said.

For Principal Quarles-Naghi, that autonomy is worth its weight in gold.

“Sixteen years ago, when I was a brand-new principal just trying to get the lunch schedule right, I would have embraced [the choices] of experts up at the district,” she said.

“But [Academy School District 20] is different from other places I’ve worked in. They trust me to do my job.”

Coverage of trends in K-12 innovation and efforts to put these new ideas and approaches into practice in schools, districts, and classrooms is supported in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York at www.carnegie.org. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
A version of this article appeared in the April 15, 2015 edition of Education Week as District Allows Schools to Take Lead on Buying

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Families & the Community Webinar
How Whole-Child Student Data Can Strengthen Family Connections
Learn how district leaders can use these actionable strategies to increase family engagement in their student’s education and boost their academic achievement.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
The School to Workforce Gap: How Are Schools Setting Students Up For Life & Lifestyle Success?
Hear from education and business leaders on how schools are preparing students for their leap into the workforce.
Content provided by Find Your Grind

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Classroom Technology How This Superintendent Is Leaning Into Tech and SEL to Boost Kids' Reading Skills
Tech and social-emotional learning strategies aim to improve poor reading achievement.
4 min read
Illustration of girl using speech recognition software
uniquepixel / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Classroom Technology Students Are Turning to TikTok for Homework Help. Is That a Bad Thing?
A survey found that 1 in 4 TikTok users in the United States use the platform for educational purposes.
5 min read
Girl holding book and texting on mobile phone
E+/Getty
Classroom Technology Stay or Go? Educators Weigh Their Future on Twitter
Now that Elon Musk owns the platform, educators are deciding whether they will stick around.
4 min read
The Twitter splash page is seen on a digital device, Monday, April 25, 2022, in San Diego. Twitter is once again adding gray “official” labels to some prominent accounts, Thursday, Nov. 10. The company, in its second chaotic week after billionaire Elon Musk took over, had rolled out the labels earlier this week, only to kill them a few hours later.
Teachers and other educators are debating whether an Elon Musk-owned Twitter will be a space they want to continue using for networking and discussion on important topics.
Gregory Bull/AP
Classroom Technology Video Games Could Actually Be Good for Kids’ Brains, Study Finds
The researchers found that the gamers did better than non-gamers in tests of their impulse control and memorization skills.
3 min read
Silhouette of a boy's head with brain made from game controller and cable. Silhouette overlayed on a blue pixelated background.
iStock/Getty Images Plus