For the third time in this millennium, I'm moving on from my current job to greener pastures. After 11 years supporting the silent reading intervention of Reading Plus, I have accepted the role of Deputy Chief Officer, Technology at New Leaders, a New York-based nonprofit that works to change the way schools are led. As I wrap this chapter in my career, I wanted to make some notes about why I made this shift and how I see my work evolving.
Something that struck me in our work at Reading Plus was the impact of the leadership and culture of a school district on the degree of success of our product. School leaders who made reading a priority and weaved it into the daily practices of staff and students saw the greatest gains. It was a 'truth' that was hard to see in a quantitative data sense - it required knowledge of the school's implementation practices beyond what we provided as part of our training. This meant close contact with customers and deep knowledge sharing, which wasn't always easy to maintain.
The whispered reality of EdTech software is the general under-utilization of purchased licenses. I can imagine a few of you reading this are nodding, and others are looking up your usage stats. A student who doesn't use a license is no better than a student who doesn't have access to one. Further, it's a stretch to believe any software product can be plugged into a complex socio-technical environment like a school without significant changes being required to function optimally. It's no wonder why usage stats trend low, especially in later years of multi-year engagements.
From my chair, I feel like I have found the constraint on EdTech software - the leadership of districts and schools. Moving to an organization working on that problem, with a particular focus on under served students, is where I feel I can add value and make a bigger impact.
During my job search, I also applied to the US Digital Service. While I ultimately turned down the offer I received from them I internalized something I learned about their mission during the process: do the most good for the greatest number of people with the biggest need. I hope to do that during this next chapter. Onward!