← Back to News

Research Finds K-12 Hardware and Software Budgets Continue to Rise

EdNET Insight’s research uncovers growth in Chromebooks and blended learning and the rise of data-driven districts.

January 12, 2016 – MDR’s State of the K-12 Market 2015 finds continuing growth and some surprising expansion in a year where not everything happened as expected. The report is based on two large-scale surveys of education decision-makers, conducted by the EdNET Research team as well as industry experts’ research and analysis. Major findings in this year’s report focus on:

  • Budgets for instructional materials held steady after last year’s growth as digital materials, changes to adoption rules, and new providers soften the market for traditional publishers.
  • Instructional technology is rapidly expanding in school districts across the country, driven by online testing requirements, marketplace demand, and market innovation.
  • Personalized learning continues to become part of the modern classroom along with new instructional approaches, open educational resources, greater connectivity, and more mobility.
  • Despite the politicization of standards and the testing opt-out movement, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) continue to drive decisions and purchases.
  • Concerns about privacy and data security have added a layer of complexity for companies selling to the K-12 education market—yet they cannot be ignored.

Instructional Materials Highlights

The instructional budget outlook for 2015-2016 is holding steady compared to the prior school year, with 9 out of 10 districts keeping instructional budgets the same or changing them only a little. “We are seeing stronger budgets in the West than other regions,” said Kathleen Brantley, Senior Director of EdNET Insight. “Forty-one percent of districts in the West expect budget increases, compared to just 18% in the Midwest and 20% in the South. The Northeast has the weakest budget outlook, with 36% of districts expecting decreases.”


According to Brantley: “The shift from print toward digital materials will continue, and districts are clear on what they expect from those materials—they must support personalized learning (92%), include an assessment component (90%), and be compatible with multiple devices and operating systems (90%).” Though print is still important for schools, competition is coming from many directions, including open educational resources (OER) and new technology providers entering the market.

Technology Budgets Are Strong and Chromebooks Are on the Rise

More districts expect to increase hardware and software spending from the prior year, while the number of districts increasing budgets for teacher training and tech support declined somewhat.


Laptops are substantially implemented in a larger portion of districts than other mobile devices, at 52%. However, Chromebooks have outpaced tablets and are quickly becoming the go-to device for mobile learning. Their substantial implementation rate in districts jumped by 17 percentage points in 2015. They are a high priority for 49% of districts, while tablets as a priority fell significantly to 31%. Purchases of desktop computers are planned in 83% of districts, and 77% have budgeted to buy Chromebooks.

BYOD Is Here to Stay

One-fifth (21%) of districts report that all high schools have implemented BYOD programs, although the percentage drops off in the lower grades (10% in elementary). Searching the Internet for research purposes (88%) is the most common activity permitted for students, followed by polling, quizzes, or gathering student feedback/input (84%); collaboration (71%); skills development/practice problems (60%); and accessing online curriculum (56%).

Online Learning Is Increasingly Part of the Classroom Offering

As more states pass legislation or rules that encourage taking an online or blended course in order to graduate, the majority (69%) of districts now offer online course options, and one-half of those increased the number of online courses offered over the prior year. New to the survey in 2015, respondents were asked to identify the primary model their districts use for online courses. Blended learning was selected by 59% of districts versus 41% who selected fully online.

Assessments Have Quickly Migrated Online

Although the opt-out movement signaled a push back against high-stakes assessments, assessment is increasingly part of personalizing learning, and districts made significant progress in shifting to online testing. Districts administering the majority of summative assessments in core subjects online increased 20 percentage points from the prior year to 54% in 2015. The picture is nearly the same for benchmark and formative assessments (with 58% and 56% of districts administering them online, respectively). Assessments administered with paper and pencil are still alive and well with nearly one-half (49%) of districts stating that’s an important feature when they decide which benchmark assessments to purchase.

Enterprise Management Systems Have Become the Backbone of the District

Almost one-quarter of the educational technology market is dedicated to enterprise management systems as school districts become data-driven organizations. The most widely used, at 95%, is the student information system (SIS), with a wide variety of providers vying for market penetration. The learning management system (LMS) is the only enterprise system that has shown a clear, one-way pattern of growth over the past five years. Its substantial implementation rate has grown from 33% in 2011 to 48% in 2015. The LMS has moved from single classroom to district-wide use with more analytics features and the increase of APIs (application program interfaces) to connect to other systems.

Privacy Please

Ninety-two percent of districts use data analytics systems to make sense of their huge and growing amounts of data (compared to 80% in 2014). Districts are looking for analytics systems that will translate all that data they collect across the enterprise into truly actionable information. However, the education market has to walk a fine line in how they collect and use data. Concerns over privacy and data security present new challenges to educational technology and content providers, adding a layer of complexity to the already daunting task of surviving and thriving in the K-12 market. Districts expect more from vendors in this area, with 8 out of 10 requiring contract language detailing the vendor’s security and privacy policies.

Learn More

To learn more about the State of the K-12 Market 2015 report and the market trend research from EdNET Insight, visit EdNET Insight or call 800-333-8802.

Contact Information

Media Contact: Valerie Chernek

Sales Contact: Kathleen Brantley