Here’s what we found:

  • Our district lacked a centralized source of record detailing everything we’re doing to impact student achievement, who exactly benefits from these activities, and what are the predefined goals and objectives for these activities.
  • We had no annual evaluation process correlating these activities to material goals and objectives.
  • We had complete interoperability between the necessary datasets to facilitate an ROI measurement process in a scalable way.
  • We had no centralized source of record capturing strategic alignment and accountability.

Each of these factors caused major pain points as we tried to ascertain what was and what was not working for our students each year. All of the required information existed but was scattered in administrator’s minds and disparate systems.

To overcome these challenges, we implemented an Achievement Investment Matrix. For the first time, district and school administrators had a centralized location documenting what they were doing, who it’s for (exactly), why, what they expect to gain, and what their ROI results are in the context of these activities. Additionally, we had a centralized location that identified ineffective spending and captured corrective actions to eliminate our ineffective spending.

Results Year 1

  • Duplicate and ‘competing’ spending: The ROI process instantly illuminates duplicate and ‘competing’ spending. Like most districts, we have more things to do than we have time in the day. This helped us hone identify our best resources and eliminate distractors.
  • Ineffective spending: Nationally, ineffective spending rates average about 42 percent … every year. We were humbled to find out that we too had hidden ineffective spending throughout our schools. We uncovered 38 percent of ineffective spending during our first pass, freeing up much-needed funds for district priorities.
  • Accountability & alignment: Having a system that captured strategic alignment, ROI, and corrective actions increased my ability to hold various stakeholders accountable across the district.

Year 2 Changes

Our second year of this process is where the ROI tree really bears fruit. Our ROI system captured and aligned all student achievement activities in one central location, monitored the fidelity of these activities, evaluated the efficacy of these activities, and illuminated what’s working and what’s not working for our students.

I am truly amazed at how impactful this data has become to our decision-making process.

We identified one program—a personalized learning platform—that only 25 percent of our students were using. However, it was generating 2x the amount of growth in the students using it as compared to students not using the program. We also identified some programs that were not leading to expected results.

Is return on investment achievable in #K12?

We made some changes based on this data, and I am proud to say that our corrective actions did two things in our second year:

  1. We reduced our negative ROI by 66 percent within the first six months.
  2. We increased student growth by 1.6x in several areas by identifying and eliminating ineffective spending.

Cost savings are a natural byproduct of the ROI process. By eliminating ineffective spending each year, we are able to free up funds to funnel back into the classroom, providing more effective activities that will provide greater benefit for our students.

Related: 5 reasons we switched to financing edtech instead of buying

Identifying actions that are not translating to student achievement are a big win for our students and educators. EROI data empowers our administrators with information (not data) related to where ineffective spending needs to be addressed and our ROI system captures and tracks the necessary corrective actions.

About the Author:

Bill Hopkins, Jr. has spent his entire career giving back and serving the people and children of Morgan County. He has a passion for leadership and believes all children can become leaders if given the chance and opportunity. Hopkins has been a teacher, coach, administrator, superintendent, and community volunteer. He is presently serving his third term as the superintendent of Morgan County Schools in Alabama.