Making the Grade: The K-12 Supplier Perspective

by: Adam Newman | Blog Papers |Jun 9th, 2020

Building on our previous outreach to parents, K-12 teachers, and early childhood educators, we solicited feedback from K-12 executives to better understand how they have steered their organizations though the current challenges and the initiatives they have implemented to ensure continued service to districts, educators, and students. We have highlighted selected findings below; more detailed data and analysis can be accessed in our presentation, available for download.

How are K-12 supplier faring?

The school year is over in much of the country, bringing an end to an incredibly challenging stretch for many K-12 administrators, educators, students and their parents. Now the hard work begins – or hopefully continues – in many districts and schools, as communities work through options for back-to-school 2020. At the same time, how district and school leaders and educators muster the energy, time and focus to prepare for the new school year feels like a Herculean task.

In this challenging climate, many K-12 suppliers are striving to chart a course forward for their own organizations, as they grapple with a spring and summer sales season unlike one any have ever experienced. We reached out to a subset of our K-12 supplier community to gauge the impact the pandemic has had on their business. Our respondents – primarily CEOs, presidents, and other high-level leaders – offered a window into what they have been contending with and what they expect going forward.

Hitting current year revenue targets challenging for many: As the COVID-19 crisis has placed a severe financial stress on schools and districts, so too many of the companies that partner with them are also feeling the strain. Two-thirds of respondents believe their businesses will fail to hit this year’s revenue targets either slightly (35%) or significantly (32%). Nearly half of respondents believe this shortfall will carry over into the next fiscal year and an additional 16% report having no ability to predict their next fiscal year performance.

It was all about product-market fit: Among the actions taken by company leaders during the crisis, refining and investing in product strategy was critical and broadly applied. When paired with CEOs who report making their solutions freely available to existing district or school customers (71%) or to parents and caregivers (42%), it emerges as the top area of emphasis for companies during the pandemic. As one respondent noted – “We met both mission and business objectives by widely disseminating our solutions.”

Now, the focus is on converting pipeline: Far and away the biggest challenge faced by executives is closing on qualified opportunities in their sales pipeline, cited by nearly two-thirds of respondents. Unfortunately, executives see this as a short-term – i.e., current 2020 sales cycle – and a long-term challenge for their businesses. As a result, building and adjusting the business’ financial forecast was the second most oft-cited challenge, followed by strategies for marketing effectively while being sensitive to current events.

Despite the challenges, silver lining can be found: Enhanced customer engagement, employee resilience and adaptability, and COVID-catalyzed business innovation were among the unexpected benefits cited by respondents as a result of the crisis. The comments shared by executives suggest that many organizations have “grown” in new ways that may prove invaluable in the anticipated tough days and weeks ahead.

For additional perspective and insights from K-12 suppliers, download the findings.

Notable K-12 reads

All 50 states plus the District of Columbia have been approved for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund — a $3B block grant within the Education Stabilization Fund which was established via the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

California Assembly and Senate Leaders agree to rescind proposed cuts to K-12 budget, contingent on Congress delivering additional federal relief

The School Nutrition Association is asking the USDA once again to extend school meal waivers through the 2020-21 school year

New America has released a resource highlighting four prospective scenarios for the 2020-21 school year, all of which incorporate or prepare for some form of online learning

The School Superintendents Association (AASA) announced an initiative to provide guidance on school reopenings and plans to release a full set of guidelines this month, in support of U.S. school districts. In the interim, AASA is calling for individual school districts to consider their own respective health data and benchmarks

Criticisms of remote learning implementation are piling up, including unequal student access to technology and a lack of training for teachers

A recently released Hechinger report questions the outcomes claims made by many education technology companies

In a new EdWeek Research Center survey, 44% of teachers said their colleagues were more likely to leave classroom teaching as a result of the coronavirus.

A coalition of 17 states plus the District of Columbia has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education over new Title IX rules released in May, citing practical deadlines to overhaul their policies and procedures for sexual harassment complaints

School boards rethink relationships with police departments in response to George Floyd tragedy

Early childhood education organizations are also taking tangible steps to combat racism and bias. The Early Care and Education Consortium (ECEC) issued a letter confirming many of the nation’s largest child care providers will formally incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into their programs. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has published the second edition of their research-based anti-bias early learning guide this Spring.

 

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