A stunning new study of 275 schools reveals that two-thirds of educational software programs are unused. In some schools, more than 90 percent of programs were sitting in student and teacher computers without being used. The economic cost to these 275 schools exceeded $2 million in wasted resources. This is consistent with my observations when conducting impact studies. Per-teacher licenses sound cheap when each license is only $25, but when that cost is applied to a thousand teachers, and only five teachers are using it, the cost is actually $5,000 per teacher.
It’s not just technology where funds are often wasted. In our studies of “initiative fatigue,” we often find vendor-based programs on which schools and districts are spending enormous amounts of money – but the implementation is negligible. We track implementation of initiatives on a four-point scale, ranging from “the teachers went to a workshop and got trained” through actual measurable impact on student results and professional practices. What we have learned in the course of these studies are two critical lessons. First, it is practices, not programs, that have the greatest impact on student achievement. Second, only deep implementation has an impact on achievement. Therefore, progressing from no implementation to half-hearted implementation may take more time and energy, but it doesn’t produce any better results.
If you’d like to learn more about how to address initiative fatigue in your educational system and save funds that have little or no impact on achievement, please contact me.