In an effort to save money and increase student achievement, the Elmore County Public School System has contracted with a Huntsville-based company to analyze what the district is purchasing and the effectiveness of those purchases.
Working with districts across the country, Glimpse K12 was founded about three years ago and claims to be the first company that combines two data sets that have traditionally only been analyzed by separate departments within districts.
"There's the accounting department that works really hard to make sure money is in compliance. Then there's the other departments that work on what's best for students," Nicole Pezent, Glimpse co-founder, said. By analyzing both, districts can see data on the education return on investment.
Elmore County's Amy Harrison said the impact has created a fundamental change within the district, moving away from conversations grounded in "this is the way it's always been done" toward "this doesn't seem to work, let's find out why."
Nearly a year into the partnership, Harrison, who serves as director of professional learning and assessment, said the district has been able to cut costs by being more purposeful in how money is being spent.
Looking at academic software programs the district had already purchased, Glimpse helped analyze whether they were being used by the entire district, and if so, in the correct way, Harrison said.
In one Glimpse study of 275 schools, the company found 67% of their educational program licenses were going unused in the 2017-2018 school year — accounting for the biggest source of wasted money in K-12 districts.
Looking at Elmore's 14 schools, analysis showed that some teachers used those programs to fidelity, while others did not use them at all. Since, the district has been pursuing "school-by-school licenses to save money versus the whole district," Harrison said. "We want to maximize the impact of every dollar spent in the classroom."
Contracted based on a per student cost comparable to the district's size — ranging from $3 to $10 per student — Glimpse's Pezent said spending the money to hire the company, "would save districts money but also likely make them more successful. It's literally a small fraction with a large return."
"It can look a little different in each of the schools," Pezent said, adding that the need exists in districts of all sizes. The company has contracts with districts in several states, working with small districts of 1,100 students to large districts with over 30,000, she said. In Alabama, nearly 30 districts have contracts with Glimpse.
In a country where billions are spent educating K-12 students, Pezent said she believes being more purposeful in tracking how those dollars are spent is essential in ensuring students' progress. The goal, she said, is to achieve 100% proficiency for all students.