State of the Market Research

Last week MDR published “School Trends: Principals’ Perspectives on Instructional Initiatives and Purchasing Decisions,” the final report in the 2017 State of the K-12 Market series. Previous reports examined the market from the perspective of classroom teachers and district-level administrators responsible for curriculum and instructional technology. This comprehensive approach allowed us to get a unique 360 view of specific aspects of the school market. While more power is devolving to the school level, more than 70% of principals say that decision making for curriculum and instructional materials purchasing is centralized in their district. Similarly, almost 70% of curriculum directors say that the district defines the curriculum and content used in classrooms.

In reality, the locus of purchasing decisions shifts depending on the materials being purchased. Decisions closely related to the classroom are often made at the school level. MDR’s survey data finds that primary purchasing decisions for library and supplemental instructional materials favor the school level, while textbook and facility improvement are likely a district level. Purchases of digital curriculum, professional development and instructional hardware are made at both levels.

Multiple people across a district exert influence over purchasing decisions. More than 90% of districts use committees made up of teachers and administrators to evaluate products being considered for purchase. More than 85% of district technology directors say they are involved in purchasing decisions for classroom apps and digital curriculum, ranging from reviewing technical requirements, to participating as a purchasing committee member, to being the final decision-maker. Nearly half of the principals surveyed say that teachers have a strong influence on school purchases of instruction and curriculum materials. More than 60% of teachers report that they are involved in school- and district-level purchasing decisions for school supplies, supplemental materials and textbooks, ranging from being an influencer who reviews products, to participating on purchasing committees, to final decision-maker.

Though their roles are very different there are some similarities with respect to the factors that influence purchasing decisions among curriculum directors and teachers. Ease of use tops the list for teachers, followed by positive reviews/evaluations, recommendations from other educators and that the product is research based. Having research that demonstrates effectiveness tops the list of important factors for curriculum directors, followed by the ability to support differentiated or personalized learning and allowing educators to customize instructional content. Technology directors also rely heavily on peer recommendations to learn about new products.

The bottom line here is that it’s important for organizations selling to the school market to keep not just final decision makers, but also influencers and users well informed about your products. Those final decision makers may seek information and recommendations from their immediate peers, but they also listen to listen to department heads and instructional coaches, and to classroom teachers and sometimes to students. Keep in mind the various roles people play, but be sure that everyone knows about your products features, its research base and how it supports differentiation. And since MDR’s research confirms that everyone uses internet search engines, be sure that you are easily discoverable when educators search for information about educational resources.