Using Competitive Proposals to Allocate Technology Resources
Electronic Learning, May 1995
The Gods have two ways of dealing harshly with us – the first is to deny us our dreams, and the second is to grant them. Oscar Wilde
Like most school districts, Mankato Public Schools’ technology needs far out pace their technology resources and budgets. This brief paper describes a process we have developed to distribute computer funds among our district’s nine elementary schools which will help maximum the impact of technology spending on the teaching and learning process.
Mankato Schools has allocated in its capital outlay budget $40-50,000 for elementary instructional computing each year over the past ten years. Prior to the 1992-93 school year, this money has been spent purchasing Apple// labs for each of the eight elementary schools. All labs were completed during the 1991-92 school year. Computer funds were spent during 1992-93 school year to begin simply replacing computers in labs with newer, more powerful machines.
While this popular model of computer distribution provided most children with some computer experience - primarily keyboarding and the use of drill and practice software, it also had some serious shortcomings:
- Most of the skills being taught were low level skills, and in most classrooms there was little integration of technology skills into the curriculum. Computer use was seen as a separate subject, not as a tool for content area skill development and instruction. Technology budgets and equipment choices were not driven by curricular objectives.
- Many teachers were minimally involved in computer use. Since there was no ready classroom access for most teachers, they relied on computer lab aides to learn the programs and instruct the students. As funding and hours for computer lab aides were cut, the computer labs were not used for large portions of the school year and very little by some classes. Teachers’ computer skills were not growing. There was little impetus for using computers for student productivity or creativity.
- There was inadequate teacher involvement in planning for computer use which created a lack of ownership of or excitement about the program. There was little parent or community awareness or involvement in the elementary computer program. The choice of the school which received funds each year was seen as arbitrary by some teachers.
- There was no assessment of the impact of computer use on the educational process, or means of sharing methods of computer use/integration among teachers in different schools.
- Only a single model of computer use/distribution was used in the district. As the district moves toward site based decision making, alternative technology plans needed to be designed which would help buildings meet their individual goals and priorities.
The competitive proposal plan had several objectives:
- to create a method of budget allocation which would be equitable, curriculum driven, and maximize its potential effect on the teaching and learning process
- to get teachers and parents involved in the allocation process, and there by create ownership in the technology program
- to create and formally evaluate a variety of technology use models in the district
- to establish higher level skills as a major outcome of the technology program
- to increase staff knowledge and competencies in technology
- to create building plans written with parent and community involvement which could be funded by alternate sources
The principals, curriculum director, and district media supervisor agreed to retain the policy of directing all technology funds to a single building each year rather than divide funds among all schools. We decided the choice of that building would be determined by allowing teacher teams in each elementary building to write plans which would detail how those computers would be used to improve instruction in their respective buildings.
The details of the criteria for selection were decided by the principals’ group, and a form (Appendix A) was used for proposal evaluation. The building teams, which consisted of teachers, principals, parents, business people, and post secondary faculty members, submitted a written proposal developed between September and March. Two representatives from the teams also gave a fifteen minute oral presentation to a judging panel made up of the elementary principals and district administrators.
The scores of all judges were tabulated, and the school with highest number of points was awarded the computer monies.
Results and Conclusions
During the 1992-3 school year, only one proposal was submitted and that proposal was funded.
During the 1993-4 school year, five schools submitted proposals and the above method was used to determine which school proposal was funded. All the objectives previously stated to some degree were met. In addition:
- The process was seen as fair by administrators and the building teams. Spreadsheets of judges’ rankings were printed for all teacher teams. All teams had access to, and help from the district media staff when writing proposals. Representatives from each building’s team read and heard the proposals of all other buildings, and there was general recognition by everyone that all teams worked hard and thoughtfully on their proposals. It was suggested that “uniqueness” be removed as a criteria for judging, since the last presenters’ ideas may seem less original if they had been expressed by previous groups, and that stricter time keeping be insisted on by judges.
- Many of the teams included parents, university members, and/or business members, as well as teachers and parents. The teams did a great deal of research on educational technology applications, prices, and technology applications in business. Good plans were submitted which addressed most of the areas on the evaluation form. It was stated by several team members that all buildings benefited by creating the plan. Several teams now have in place a proposal which they can use when looking for grant or foundation funding.
- The evaluation criteria was critical to the method’s success. During the writing, teams were told that evaluators would probably look at the effect of the proposal on the teaching and learning process, assessment, and staff development. The full list of criteria was distributed after the written proposals had been submitted, but before the oral presentations. Next year, the evaluation form will be distributed before teams begin writing.
- Mankato Schools will now have a variety of models of computer distribution and use in their elementary schools including:
- traditional labs of either Apple // or Macintosh computers; some in separate classrooms, some connected to the media center
- computers placed in “mini-labs” at specific grade levels
- computers networked and placed in all classrooms
- a technology “immersed” school in which there is a full lab, research mini-lab, mini-labs in common work areas off classrooms, and a computer in each classroom - all which are networked (This amount of technology was a result of a building bond referendum and tremendous community support.)
- There is a much wider variety of computer use by students in the district including creating newsletters, creating hypermedia presentation, and using e-mail and networked (including Internet) resources.
- There is a growing parent and community awareness that the current level of technology funding cannot provide equal opportunities for all students in the district.
Schools will always have limited resources. It is therefore imperative that the allocation of those resources be given intelligent consideration. Budgets which are driven by curricular outcomes and have teacher and parent support should be the foundation of all educational funding. Our competitive proposal process is one way to help lay this foundation.
This form maybe used and modified without the author’s permission, but please keep Mankato in the title.
The Mankato Schools Elementary Building Technology Plan Evaluation Form - 1994
I. Effect on student learning and the teaching/learning environment
0 points The proposal does not indicate how students or teachers will benefit.
1 point The proposal addresses teaching and learning in a general way, but does not indicate the specific skills, programs, or groups of students who will benefit.
2 points The proposal indicates which subject areas, grade levels, and/or special needs groups will benefit from the plan.
3 points The proposal addresses documented curricular or teaching/learning needs in the building, and shows how the proposal will meet those specific needs.
II. Staff training and support
0 points The proposal does not address staff development.
1 point The proposal indicates that there is a staff development component, but is not specific as to its duration, funding or scope.
2 points The building staff development team will support the proposal with time, planning and funding.
3 points The proposal includes the support of the building staff development team and indicates the specific competencies staff development efforts will address.
III. Project assessment and demonstration/sharing of project outcomes
0 points The proposal does not indicate how the effectiveness of the project will be assessed nor how the results of the project will be shared with other schools.
1 point The proposal has a single method of measuring its effectiveness, and does not indicate how that information will be shared.
2 points The proposal has multiple methods of assessment and a formal means of sharing information about the project with other schools in the district.
3 points The proposal has multiple methods of assessment, and formal means of sharing information about the project with other schools in the district, other schools in the state, and with the community.
0 points The proposal does not include a budget.
1 point The budget is incomplete, inaccurate or unrealistic..
2 points The proposal accurately lists types and quantities of equipment and software needed. The basic proposal can be funded with available monies
3 points The proposal realistically addresses the funding of the basic project, and indicates other committed sources of funding for additions, including building capital outlay funds, grants, PTO monies etc.
V. Support for the project
0 points The proposal does not indicate who supports the project.
1 point The proposal has the support of many of the teachers in the building.
2 points The proposal has the support of all staff in the building.
3 points The proposal has parental, business or university support as well as building support.
0 points The proposal uses technology only in ways currently being used in the district.
1 point The proposal has one or two unique elements, but primarily uses technology in a traditional manner.
2 points The proposal uses technology in a way not currently demonstrated in I.S.D. 77, but which has been effective in other similar school districts.
3 points The proposal uses current research and theory to create effective new uses of technology, or significantly modifies a current use to improve its effectiveness.
VII. Success potential
0 points The proposal is unlikely to succeed due to a number of factors.
1 point One or two factors make the success of the project unlikely.
2 points The proposal has no apparent flaws, and is likely to succeed.
3 points The proposal is very strong in many areas, and has a very high potential for success.
Criteria I _______ Criteria II _______
Criteria III _______ Criteria IV _______
Criteria V _______ Criteria VI _______
Criteria VII _______ Total _______
In preparing this data: 1) the evaluations completed by principals for their own schools were withdrawn, 2) all ratings which fell between whole numbers were rounded up.