BY: NICOLE NEAL, CEO, NOODLE MARKETS
Over the years, education researchers have spent countless hours looking at learning models, behavioral theories, spending, and systemic challenges to increasing achievement. That work has rightly gone on to influence the curriculum, technology and infrastructure that reach our kids.
Unfortunately, the timeliness of this research and its relevance to real-time district decision-making is lagging. There is an utter lack of transparency in K-12 purchasing, because the data is buried. It’s time to leverage our resources to help educators bridge the gap among K-12 product selection, spending, and achievement.
Noodle Markets has just released the first of a series of monthly reports to examine district spending, product selection, demographic details, and student achievement. By sourcing SmartProcure data, the American Community Survey, individual state departments of education reports, and other trusted third parties, we are analyzing thousands of purchase data line items within instructional resource categories to identify product usage trends and efficacy. EdWeek has published the first of these findings, which examines K-3 Math Curriculum.
Our reports will help educators with three essential questions:
- What products are districts like mine purchasing?
- What is the relative pricing among similar products across districts?
- How do product decisions correlate with performance?
In our first report, we saw correlations between district product selection and student achievement–within socioeconomic bands. The data suggests instructional resources may have different effects for student populations within different income levels. This could have huge implications for district leaders who are exhausting their resources when it comes to evaluating curriculum, and we want to help educators with that research. The data exists–it has just been difficult to parse without cooperation among stakeholders.
We are committed to advancing the conversation around curriculum, instructional materials and achievement through our reports, but our analysis isn’t a magic bullet. It is one of many resources that should be used to show why what you purchase matters.
Our research has its limits. We look at a broad set, but do not include all products in all districts. At this scale, we cannot examine every factor that affects student success, such as ELL status or older sibling data. These aren’t blind experiments and we recognize we will not know how curriculum is administered–what professional development accompanies it and its associated instructional resources, or how students were previously taught. We cannot say with certainty that a given purchase was even implemented.
That said, core curriculum purchases of hundreds of thousands of dollars do tend to result in adoption, which is not always the case across other K-12 categories. And by looking at such a wide number of districts and purchase order line items, we hope that some of those factors balance each other out. We seek to get better at this as we go, with the support of the greater education community.
We are keenly interested in connecting procurement with performance. We might see certain factors are actually random, not causal. We’ll certainly see that the relationships are complex. Over time, districts can only benefit when they look at what other districts are doing—looking at local cases and national trends.
K-12 decision makers should have this data readily available—making it faster and easier to find and conduct qualitative and quantitative analysis of purchasing opportunities. We know that educators historically cite efficacy studies and recommendations as their top criteria for their purchases. We hope to gather and deploy resources to simplify that work and make it more efficient.
When it comes to supporting district leaders in making informed decisions for schools, surfacing and having conversations around education data is a no-brainer.