To read this content please select one of the options below:

Five leading-edge K-12 districts’ decision-making processes for EdTech innovations

Sara Dexter (Department of Leadership, Foundations, and Policy, School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA)
Aubrey Francisco (NewSchools Venture Fund, Oakland, California, USA)
Christina Luke Luna (Digital Promise, Redwood City, California, USA)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 30 March 2021

Issue publication date: 2 June 2021




The purpose of this study was to better understand K-12 district leaders' reasoning and processes for selecting and deploying EdTech instructional products, including which, if any, types of data are used to support decision-making.


This multisite case study of educational technology (EdTech) decision-making comprises five purposely selected districts at the leading edge of EdTech innovation. The unit of analysis was a recent purchase they had made of an instructional, classroom-oriented digital product (defined as a product used by teachers and/or students in the classroom for the purposes of student learning). The key leader heading up the purchase was interviewed, as were other leaders and a teacher who were involved in the decision-making process.


The processes districts used to make their purchasing decisions involved teachers, district leaders and technical specialists who considered usability, usage data and alignment with student learning and interoperability, respectively. While in some cases there were plans to collect data on student learning outcomes, districts did not uniformly emphasize that in their decision-making processes. Instead, the type of educational technology tool that was purchased influenced whether or not districts planned to seek out student-level outcome data as evidence of the product's efficacy. For the purchases associated with access to content, school leaders considered usage or log data generated by the program itself as sufficient indication that the program is “working.” Where the software's functionality encompassed skill development, leaders stated future plans to look at student-level outcomes as a means for judging if the program “worked.”


Few accounts of district decision-making about the adoption of educational technology innovations are present in the literature. These five cases provide insight into the role evidence plays in decisions to adopt educational technology.



The work reported in this manuscript constitutes part of the work conducted by Working Group A for the EdTech Efficacy Research Academic Symposium (, May 3–4, 2017, and was partially supported by funding from Jefferson Education Accelerator (JEA) and Digital Promise. The authors acknowledge the individuals who were a part of Working Group A and provided helpful input on the study design and feedback on their findings.


Dexter, S., Francisco, A. and Luke Luna, C. (2021), "Five leading-edge K-12 districts’ decision-making processes for EdTech innovations", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 59 No. 3, pp. 352-366.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles