New school consortium seeks to level procurement field
The education technology market might have become easier for district leaders to navigate, thanks in part to a new nonprofit group, Technology for Education Consortium (TEC).
Led by CEO and former New York City Schools Chief Information Officer Hal Friedlander, the group provides leaders a place where they can give spending limits on certain tech devices and TEC analyzes the patterns and produces reports so districts can be better informed on pricing around the country.
For example, they found that the cost for the same iPad can vary, depending on the district. As they gather more data, more devices will be compared, including Chromebooks.
“We wanted to help districts buy the right technology products for the right price,” Friedlander says. “CIOs do not have the time to call other CIOs around the country and get their opinions on products or find out how much was paid for those products. TEC is doing that work for all district CIOs.”
Districts can already see the value in the work TEC is doing.
“I think this is a great idea,” says Dan DiVito, technology director at Shelton Public Schools in Connecticut. “Although we use consortium contracts such as PEPPM and state contracts to lock in pricing, there is still some variance to the pricing you can get. And going out for an RFP always brings companies out of the woodwork, so seeing a way to aggregate the information to help districts leverage pricing is a great idea.”
Friedlander shares some best practices to ensure you get the most bang for your edtech bucks:
- If a district is already buying a product from a vendor, conduct a satisfaction survey of relevant district employees. Ensure there are no problems with that product that you have not heard about.
- If the product is intended to be used in a classroom or used by teachers or principals, make sure teachers or principals participate in the selection.
- When possible, select more than one product, such as iPads and Microsoft Surfaces, that you want to purchase. Vendors will know you are not committed to one solution and are open to competition. Evaluate each product for a school year and then move forward with the one that best meets your needs and budget.
- Try to put performance criteria in the agreement. Most businesses do this and it’s fairly standard for enterprise agreements, but most districts don’t do this for edtech products. Get edtech vendors to agree on performance criteria up front. If they get a high score in an annual review of the performance criteria, you pay them 100 percent. If they get a bad score, you pay them zero. If a vendor rejects this prior to a deal, it’s unlikely a good product or company.