Is your ACT/SAT prep tool gathering dust on the shelf?

Kym Derriman Kym Derriman

Each week, we speak with dozens of school administrators, counselors, and teachers about improving school-wide SAT or ACT scores. One challenge comes up much more frequently than any other: adoption. Schools are spending time and money looking for ACT/SAT prep solutions and they’re finding them, but time and time again, that investment is being rewarded with little but empty promises and underused tools.

I don’t want to sugarcoat it: implementing a new system, tool, or technology is never easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. To get there, schools and vendors have to work together.

“One-and-done” product training just isn’t enough.

For years, the ACT/SAT prep industry’s go-to model for working with schools has been to use them as an advertising platform to sell high-priced tutoring programs to their students. Even those that profess to offer a school-wide solution usually provide just a one-time kick-off training before moving on to the next sale. School administrators are left on their own to drive adoption of a product that they are just becoming acquainted with themselves.

Even when administrators are up to the task, they often struggle to get the necessary buy-in from their faculty. In our experience, teachers aren’t opposed to new and better tools to help their students. But teachers are busy. If they’re being asked to implement a new system without sufficient assistance and support, who can blame them if they set the new tool aside and return to ones they already know?

Far too often, schools end up with some really amazing platform that just doesn’t get used. If 10% of their target students benefit from it, they’re lucky.

The Solution? Require More from Your Vendors

Schools should know that adoption problems aren’t their fault. Companies who introduce new products to schools have a responsibility to deliver on the promises they make and provide meaningful support to the schools that put their trust in them. However, schools can avoid adoption problems if they learn to recognize the traits that make a vendor the right kind of partner.

First of all, beware of vague promises of training and support. Ask your potential vendors what specific actions they will take to drive adoption of their product throughout your school. If they don’t have a good answer, your funds will likely be better used elsewhere.

Likewise, if they talk about product training like it’s a one-time thing, they probably won’t be effective partners. After the first product training, ongoing feedback sessions and retraining should take place throughout the school year. Teachers should know that they will see that person who trained them again the next month, and the month after that. This ongoing relationship develops a natural and mutual accountability, both on the teacher’s side to use the product and on the company’s side to deliver what they promised.

Don’t be afraid to require meaningful, long-term support from your vendors. Steer clear of companies who promise the latest and greatest technology and claim that it will miraculously drive engagement without any kind of detailed plan. If they haven’t planned for adoption, adoption will not happen. And no matter how great the tech is, if it doesn’t get used, it’s just another fancy shelf ornament.

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