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An Ed-Tech 'Consumer Reports'

In a paper from the Washington-based Hamilton Project, Aaron Chatterji, a professor from Duke University, and Benjamin Jones, a professor from Northwestern University, propose launching a "Consumer Reports" for education technology.

Although there is a need for technology solutions in K-12 schools, it is extremely difficult for entrepreneurs to tap into the market for a variety of reasons—partly because although the education technology market is large, purchasing power lies in the hands of each individual district, making it difficult to penetrate the market. K-12 educators are also wary of new solutions because there is a lack of information out there about which products are actually effective, the paper says.

As a result, there is a need for a trusted, low-cost way of evaluating ed-tech products and reporting those findings to schools, the paper says. The two professors lay out a case for an initiative called EDU STAR, which would build on a Consumer Reports model to bridge the gap between education innovators and entrepreneurs and K-12 educators. Two major influences that lay the groundwork for such a system, the professors say, are the Common Core State Standards, which provide a uniform set of standards against which products can be evaluated, and the widespread broadband infrastructure, which allows schools to access information on a regular basis.

The aim of EDU STAR would be to evaluate ed-tech products and solutions in a low-cost, rigorous, and rapid way through randomized trials in schools, as well as to report that information to schools and to entrepreneurs and businesses. For it to be successful, EDU STAR must maintain a reputation as an objective evaluator and therefore will not be able to accept funding from organizations with a financial stake in the evaluations. In addition, to build trust in EDU STAR ratings, all evaluation results will be published (not just the positive ones), and the organization will accept no free samples, the paper says.

Our Marketplace K-12 blog has the full story.

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