EdWeek Market Brief is a business publication that covers the education market and the universe of companies doing business in schools. In December of 2021, we published a special report titled “What’s the Role of Education Companies in Supporting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?” The report seeks to help education companies in the U.S. and internationally understand what school districts need from them in promoting racial/ethnic inclusivity efforts — a huge area of interest within school communities.
This project offers a first-of-its kind, research-based roadmap for private companies operating in the multi-billion dollar education marketplace to change their products and behavior so that they better reflect the racially and ethnically diverse student populations and school communities they serve.
Over the past year and a half, many of the United States’ school districts have rethought their policies and practices on race and equity, in an effort to respond to the demands from parents and communities. Much has been written about these efforts. In this special report, EdWeek Market Brief broke new ground by looking at diversity, equity, and inclusion from a completely different perspective: We examined the critical role that education companies need to play in helping school systems make progress on DEI. The report is based on a nationally representative survey by EdWeek Market Brief of K-12 officials, who were asked about the kinds of specific products and features – and leadership – they expect from businesses delivering curriculum, assessment, professional development, and other essential products. The special report combines deep reporting with original research to provide education businesses with a guide for making the kinds of changes to their products and practices that are often talked about, but rarely brought to the finish line. The report was delivered to EdWeek Market Brief’s base of subscribers — who include some of the biggest education-focused businesses in the world, as well as startups, research institutions and others. It has the potential to shape the work of education companies in the market on DEI for years to come.
The research in the report was conducted by the EdWeek Research Center, which is directed by Holly Kurtz. The core research is based on a nationally representative, online survey of 931 district administrators, school principals, and classroom teachers, conducted in August of 2021. In addition, the report includes the results of two separate surveys of education company officials, conducted in 2020 and 2021, on their perspectives on DEI issues. Not only were the top-line survey results analyzed; the results were then cross-tabulated according a number of factors, including school district size, district poverty level, and the diversity of the student populations within districts.
What was the hardest part of this project?
The most challenging part of this project was conceiving and then completing a project that — to the best of our knowledge — has never been undertaken before in education journalism, and thus had no template to guide the work. We went into the project knowing that A) diversity, equity, and inclusion is of great importance to many school districts, and B) many education companies say they have an interest in supporting DEI, because the school districts they serve have diverse student populations and want those students’ backgrounds reflected in their academic resources.
But we did not know whether it was realistic for us to collect survey information from school district officials on issues associated with racial/ethnic inclusion, or to present this data to a business audience in a way was likely to influence their behavior. We had to formulate survey questions of school district officials that they were capable of answering about product preferences and company behavior related to DEI. We then had to determine what information from the survey data would be most instructive for a business audience. And finally, we had to figure out how to present the data journalistically so that it was digestible and impactful for our audience.
What can others learn from this project?
Journalists can learn about the power of conducting independent survey research and using it to provide insights to a business audience that would otherwise not have access to that information — and perhaps not be inclined to seek it out.
EdWeek Market Brief regularly conducts survey research of school district officials, and delivers it to education companies — though rarely on a scale approaching what was offered through our DEI report. One of the advantages of a journalistic outlet doing this original survey research is that we can credibly ask uncomfortable questions of school officials that companies themselves might be reluctant to ask. Journalism has the ability to influence private sector behavior through watchdog reporting, and through traditional beat coverage. This project demonstrates the potential to shape the work of businesses through research that companies regard as impartial, yet also essential to making their work more responsive to schools.