The following post is written by guest blogger Jim Yurasits, Director of Testing, Data, and School Improvement at Orange County Public Schools (VA).
I have been working in public education for 34 years as both a teacher and an educational administrator. During that time, I have had to decide which software to use in my classes to help me teach, and I have been responsible for division-wide initiatives such as choosing and implementing a new student information system. Keeping student success as the driving factor, decisions around which software to use are not always easy.
The recent adaptation to a more virtual learning modality – that all school divisions had to undertake due to the complications caused by the COVID19 pandemic – is a perfect example. Within a very short period, school leaders were expected to make a choice for a digital learning platform that would require significant investment and far-reaching impacts on teaching and learning outcomes. Suddenly, school curriculum leaders had to become experts on network infrastructure, user authentication, student information system rostering, etc.—relatively far outside of the comfort zone of most.
There is really no way of knowing which product is going to be the best for students, faculty, administration, and parents without a thorough, in-depth analysis – which means hours of careful, thoughtful background research.
A recent study by Digital Promise surveyed over 300 education and technology leaders and conducted over 50 interviews in an effort to learn how to overcome barriers in the EdTech purchasing process. The study cites one curriculum director’s complaints, “One of our biggest challenges is to sift and filter through the variety of products that are out there and not waste our time,…energy, and…resources on products that are not going to meet our need.”
We often learn about new products and receive product recommendations from our peers. Yet, a peer recommendation does not mean the product will be effective within our own school district. An article in EDWeek Market Brief, written by Michel Molnar, suggests that over 550 EdTech products are being used in K-12 districts. However, these products are rarely purchased based on efficacy or merit.
The same article suggests using the following questions to evaluate EdTech purchases:
- What does this technology claim it will do for your school?
- How will you know if the technology is doing what it claims it will do for your school?
- What evidence is there that the technology has done the same for other schools like yours?
Because we don’t have time to spend doing the evaluation (to answer the three questions listed above), a third-party capable of doing the analysis would allow us to make more informed decisions and lesson the discovery process . One superintendent reported, “the acceleration of products on the market right now is out of control and unmanageable for any district to do it by themselves.”
When I heard about the Veracity Verification Process, where impartial third-party education experts are responsible for rating the effectiveness of software solutions, I was intrigued. Because the Verification process is standardized, and experts examine a set of common factors that contribute to a successful implementation, school division staff doesn’t waste time reinventing the wheel. A key point about experts used in this process is they are neutral, not tied to a certain school, district, or bias towards a particular product. With so many pieces of the puzzle that must fit together before an educational software solution can be successful, it makes sense to take advantage of a third party to help vet the product.
Author: Jim Yurasits
Director of Testing, Data, and School Improvement, Orange County Public Schools, VA