How To Sell To Schools And Elevate The Education Marketplace
Managing Principal Consultant at RYE Consulting, overseeing company growth and Pre-K–20 education policy engagement.
Learning loss has touched the lives of families everywhere. Parents are worried about their child’s progress or lack thereof. Educators are working to craft lesson plans that will cover missed instruction without key data to understand learning gaps. Now policymakers are working to support districts nationwide to address learning targets and necessary infrastructure needs after having been closed and with declining enrollment numbers.
With the president’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, states are required to spend at least 5% (approximately $6.5 billion) to address the learning losses that have stemmed from the Covid-19 pandemic. Thankfully, education leaders have been working to pinpoint what efforts schools and districts can take to catch students up this summer and beyond. Georgetown University’s FutureEd think tank’s recent Covid Relief Playbook outlines several key areas to focus on, such as:
1. Expanded learning time.
2. Family and community engagement.
3. Teachers and teaching.
4. School climate.
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When it comes to it, though, there are many different models and programs to consider when executing any one of these relief initiatives successfully. With an unclear definition of “learning loss” — what it is, let alone how to actually solve for it — district leaders are becoming increasingly responsible for understanding how to spend these allocated funds effectively. Teaching and learning have, arguably, taken a back seat to understanding and navigating the education marketplace.
I believe the Biden administration’s investment in education is necessary, but without helping district leaders understand how to best use those funds, we should expect to see a similar pattern of ineffective investments. This is where education companies come into play.
When it comes to making sure our nation’s districts, schools and students are able to realize the promise of equitable education, education companies play a key role in ensuring all students have access to the platforms, resources and services that are essential to learning and thriving. And the better these companies understand the current education landscape, the better they can align their services to fill existing gaps, helping district leaders cut through the clutter and get their students and teachers supports that work.
This isn’t the first time our nation’s school districts have received an infusion of federal dollars. In 2009, we saw the Race to the Top Stimulus. Annually, states and districts receive Title I and IDEA funds. These dollars are essential to district operations day-to-day, but they’ve done little to significantly move the needle for student achievement.
To stand out in the crowded marketplace and truly showcase how your services and products are best serving teachers and students, here are a few things you can do:
Step 1: Understand your end user.
Sure, you’re wanting to move the needle for students and help them succeed, but the reality is that students and even teachers are rarely, if ever, involved in the proposal process. In fact, those reviewing district and school RFP responses are rarely educators themselves. Recognizing the reader and their goals is an essential part of navigating the purchasing process. Identify the buyer’s persona. Speak their language and highlight how you can help with their unique needs.
Step 2: Speak their language.
Again, your end user may very well not know classroom lingo. They’re looking for keywords set out in the RFP. Recognize that what you call professional development, they might call professional learning or training and meet them where they are.
We know that increased education funding is essential to increasing student outcomes, especially for low-income students, but for these funds to be truly effective, district leaders need insights into longstanding and emerging workforce trends. With this information, leadership and schools can be well-positioned to select policy-aligned programs that will benefit their communities and students.
A few things that we’ve seen trending that district leaders can incorporate into their schools include:
• Closing the digital divide: Ensuring equitable teaching and learning environments through access to devices and connectivity is important. Even more vital is the proper training for teachers, coaches and administrators on how to effectively utilize technology in multiple modalities.
• Reducing chronic absenteeism: A reduction in excessive truancy, chronic absenteeism rates can help close the achievement gap, but how do we engage parents and the community to support students in this effort? We need to support parents by creating clear communication pathways and utilizing technology that enhances accessibility for all.
• Equity and access: Federal emergency funding places a large focus on supporting historically marginalized students. An equity and accessibility lens is key when considering classroom solutions.
• Literacy: Literacy doesn’t just take place in the ELA classroom; it reaches across all subject areas and domains. Helping earliest learners establish strong foundational reading can improve achievement across the board.
While these might seem like high-level, lofty initiatives, they provide a solid starting point for where you can focus your attention in the coming months and years.
This increase in funds is a welcomed, overwhelming opportunity for district leaders to truly support the teachers, students and communities they serve. We, as education consultants and businesses, now have a similar opportunity to be able to support these leaders so that they can ensure a strong return on these investments. And by understanding the marketplace and how it works, we can help advance the best supports for all students.