Do You Know the Edtech Adoption Rules in Your State? SETDA’s New Guide...

Policy and Government

Do You Know the Edtech Adoption Rules in Your State? SETDA’s New Guide May Help.

By Stephen Noonoo     Oct 10, 2017

Do You Know the Edtech Adoption Rules in Your State? SETDA’s New Guide May Help.

What’s the difference between selling an education product to California versus Indiana—or any other state, for that matter?

A new report from the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) aims to clear up the murky waters surrounding the adoption of digital learning materials, a process that varies wildly between states.

The report defines several different procurement models, including so-called “adoption states,” where decisions are made at the state level, and “local control states,” where districts and local education agencies (LEAs) have more autonomy. Adoption states may negotiate “master contracts” with vendors so that each district would only pay one set price (sometimes cheaper) for a given product.

Even within that framework, states set their own requirements to meet accountability standards. Some, such as California, state that all digital materials must have a printed counterpart. Others request that publishers complete special checklists or tweaks to Request for Proposal (RFP) documents.

“The complexity of the procurement process results in highly diverse procurement practices at the state, district and school levels,” the report notes, adding that some states use a procurement office within the state education agency, while others use a separate independent procurement office, or even a combination of the two.

According to the report, four states—California, Louisiana, Utah and Indiana—are leaders in digital learning adoption, providing “roadmaps” for other states looking to follow in their footsteps. All four are profiled in case studies that detail their policies, funding allotments, adoption processes and notable challenges.

California, Louisiana and Utah use a combination of state adoption and local control; Indiana’s procurement is entirely under local control. In states that mix adoption and local control, like Utah, a commission reviews, vets and ultimately recommends instructional materials, although districts have final say.

Indiana provides some general guidance to LEAs but leaves it up to them to review and adopt content. In lieu of a review board, the state provides small grants to a state-level educator cohort called Rockstars of Curation, which reviews free open educational resources. Occasionally Indiana will partner with companies to provide materials or services to districts free of charge. But these deals don’t always pan out. In 2013, Indiana had such an arrangement with My Big Campus, a learning management system provider that went out of business two years later, leaving teachers frustrated and many districts without an LMS.

“This paper shows that there is no one-size fits all for the procurement process,” said Dr. Tracy Weeks, Executive Director of SETDA in a statement. “However, this important work provides strategies that states can leverage to provide leadership for their LEAs.”

Publishers and other companies in the edtech space often have difficulty navigating the regulations as well. To that end, 27 states have provided specific guidance for publishers about procurement regulations. (SETDA maintains a state-by-state database with information about procurement policies, and links to resources from those 27 states.)

“States have the opportunity to demonstrate leadership for their schools and LEAs so that funding is used most effectively and efficiently to support digital learning opportunities,” the report concludes. “Most importantly, whether an adoption state or non-adoption state, many states provide varied levels of support for districts in the procurement and acquisition of instructional materials.”

The report, State Procurement Case Studies: Spotlight on Digital Materials Acquisition, is available online.

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