A bar chart showing different percentages, depicting ROI.

Is return on investment achievable in K12?

For a rural district in Alabama, the answer is yes

Return on investment (ROI) is an oft-cited goal in K12 arenas, but it is achievable? In Morgan County School District, we’ve found that it is. Here’s how we did it.

The superintendent’s dilemma

As the superintendent of Morgan County (AL) School District for the past eight years, I experience the same challenges as most of today’s school administrators. Every year, our district has to balance the diverse needs of low-socioeconomic rural students with higher-performing feeder patterns, transient student populations, a growing English learner population, educator and student retention, and annual budget pressures. Every year we are asked to do more with less while still maximizing student outcomes with limited resources.

The dynamic needs of Morgan County’s students are not going away. We realized that the key to solving this complicated equation was to put into place a system that captured, tracked, and managed our educational ROI, or EROI. Managing our EROI by identifying ineffective spending and re-deploying those resources back into more effective tools, resources, and programs for our students incrementally boosts student achievement by definition.

Challenges to ROI

All of us like to think we do a great job at managing our EROI, but the truth is, very few of us actually do. In large part, it’s not our fault. Data silos create logistical challenges, and traditional processes and heuristics cloud our ability to extract meaningful insights from our educational activities.

Foundationally, ROI calculations should capture everything you’re doing to impact student outcomes and evaluate these activities in the context of student achievement.

Related: 4 surefire ways to get more for your edtech dollar

This is a paradigm shift away from traditional public education thinking. Traditionally, educators look at our budgets (what we’re doing) and scores (what happened) in isolation. Rarely, if ever, do we look at these two components in the context of one another—mostly because we don’t know how.

The problem is, when you lose the context, you lose the ‘why,’ and that causes us to blindly make decisions without considering how we ended up here in the first place.

Taking control of the ‘why’

Our EROI journey began with a specialist in assessing ROI, Glimpse K12. With hundreds of software programs, OER resources, strategies, and programs permeating our curriculum, making sense of ‘what’s working for our students’ had blossomed into an administrative quandary. Compounding this challenge, our students’ needs change yearly, so finding the best tools, resources, and strategies was extremely difficult.

We started with  a current state and needs assessment analysis.

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