During EIA’s recent (and very successful and well-attended) 2013 Education Industry Days Summit here in Washington, DC, there was much discussion of the confluence of three related trends: (1) tighter K-12 education budgets nationwide; (2) state and local education procurement policies with ever-higher hurdles for would-be contractors; and (3) a growing focus on education program effectiveness and accountability.
How should EIA members and other education companies respond to the current state of affairs – one expected to be with us for some time?
While certainly not the proverbial “magic bullet,” one step EIA members can take – also discussed during the EI Days Summit – is to invest in objective, third-party studies that validate your organizations’ outcomes and the impact of your solutions. And this doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming.
You probably have a “gut-feeling” that your product/service is effective and works well. You also have an emotional and financial investment that drives you to market to schools and/or consumers. So why would you not want to truly know that your product/service works; under what conditions it works; and what you could do to improve it?
Featured at the recent Education Industry Days Summit, Dr. Steve Ross of the Johns Hopkins Center for Research and Reform in Education (CRRE) told attendees he’s ready to tailor study designs balancing budget and rigor considerations for EIA members. When conducted by an independent group like the CRRE, simple and low-cost case studies, surveys/interviews, or quantitative control group studies, can produce very useful reports for the company. Dr. Ross said studies of this kind can be produced in short order, especially when researchers have direct access to the cooperative customers of the education company.
Dr. Ross added that when you engage CRRE, the study and its findings belong to your company; unless you choose to do so, the study will not be independently published in an academic journal.
The bottom line for education entrepreneurs is this: the buying strategies of public school administrators have become more sophisticated and competitive, and ever mindful of scarce resources and effectiveness, they are looking at evaluation data more than ever before to support their procurement decisions.
I encourage you to read more about Dr. Ross’ presentation, and my column on education company evaluation, in the current issue of Enterprising Entrepreneurs, now available on the EIA website: http://www.educationindustry.org
Happy researching and evaluating!