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Curriculum Spending: Third of a Series

Curriculum is a top purchasing priority for 69 percent of K12 districts.

As the magazine of education leadership for top-level decision makers in K12 education, District Administration reaches key executives in virtually every school district in the United States, including superintendents, business officers, technology managers, curriculum directors, library/media center directors and funding administrators. Certainly no one is better qualified to comment on current district spending than the readers of this magazine.

While District Administration publishes annual spending reports to provide insights into school markets, this year is different since we commissioned the independent research organization Martin Akel & Associates to conduct an extensive buying survey of our readers. Random samples of subscribers were drawn from districts across the country, and each individual received a questionnaire on purchasing activities and expenditures over a four-year period. Although the information focused on the 2006-2007 academic year, the researchers also compiled trend data for the two preceding years and rojections for the two succeeding years.

District Administration targets district-level administrators in the K12 market, and the study found that our readers are heavily involved in brand and product decisions. Virtually all DA readers-97 percent-have leadership responsibilities in purchasing products and services, and 83 percent of subscribers are involved in the final decisions. Nine out of ten are opinion leaders, sought out by others and influencing them in making purchases; nine out of ten-93 percent- are involved with teams/committees that determine purchases for their districts; and three-quarters-72 percent-have team management responsibilities. Buying decisions are team efforts.

The readership survey projected that the total 2006-2007 expenditures for purchasing goods and services across nearly 15,000 districts reached by District Administration magazine is $33.3 billion, which represents an enormous market. The first article in this series-in the September 2007 issue-summarized the buying power of K12 executives and school districts, the second focused on technology, and this month we look at curriculum products and services, which 69 percent of districts cite as a purchasing priority.

Curriculum buying decisions are team efforts.


U.S. districts spent $2.95 billion in 2006-2007 on curriculum products and services, and the average district spent $423,500. Th is included purchasing textbooks, supplemental resources, educational software, testing materials and professional development across the K12 content areas of language arts, math, reading, science and social studies. Subscribers were asked to indicate their district's curriculum usage and planned purchase activities, and the results are summarized in the chart below.


The survey also investigated the approval process for purchasing curriculum products and services and found that 85 percent of readers are involved in those processes. In addition, the study examined the categories of staff members involved in making selections and the reasons given for the prevalence of team decision-making.

Purchase Approval Levels

U.S. districts spent $2.95 billion in 2006-2007 on curriculum products and programs.

More than half of the K12 districts-57 percent-require that all expenditures for curriculum products and services be approved at the district rather than the school level. However, most of the others have a relatively low threshold at which expenditures must receive district approval.

Team/Committee Purchase Decisions

Nine out of ten districts-93 percent-use a team/committee approach to decide on purchasing new curriculum products and services. The main reasons given are because a team approach provides a broader range of insights (78 percent), a team approach with varied expertise leads to better solutions (78 percent), and because this type of decision affects multiple areas in the district (71 percent)..

District-Level Managers Involved in Selections

For major purchases of curriculum products and services, on average there are 4.3 different types of district-level administrators involved in the selection process. School principals with district-level responsibilities, curriculum directors and superintendents typically lead these selection teams.


Vendors of curriculum products and services selling to the K12 market must focus a large part of their eff orts at the district level, because the majority of districts require approval at that level. Plus, as shown earlier, district administrators not only approve purchases but are heavily involved in the initial stages as well. It is also important to note that virtually all districts use a team/committee approach in selecting curriculum products and services, with an average of four different types of professionals involved. Vendors must therefore contact each of these key players to properly brand their products.

The study found that most DA subscribers are responsible for selecting or rejecting brands of products, services and equipment, which we refer to as "brand building" and "brand burning," respectively. Of these, 96 percent of readers were involved in decisions that led to the purchase of specific brands, and 93 percent were involved in decisions that led to brands being rejected. For example, in a one-month snapshot, nearly 49 percentbuilt a brand and 39 percent burned a brand.


As your go-to source for up-to-date and accurate information on curriculum products and services for K12 school districts, District Administration offers various ways to keep you informed. In addition to an extensive new products section in each issue, we also provide a rapidly expanding products guide on our Web site with more than 1,500 examples to view. And early in 2008 we will publish a special "thirteenth issue" devoted entirely to products that will name the "Readers' Choice Top 100 Products of 2007." Visit our online database often to select your favorite products in the categories of hardware, software, Internet, books and materials, using our new star rating system to let us know what works best in your district.

Odvard Egil Dyrli,, is editor-in-chief of District Administration and emeritus professor of education at the University of Connecticut.