New paper proposes ed-tech evaluation system

By Laura Devaney, Managing Editor
September 27th, 2012

A proposed nonprofit would evaluate educational technologies.

In a new paper, two researchers have proposed to create a new third-party ratings system for educational technology products, which would help link ed-tech buyers and sellers and offer reports on software’s effectiveness.

The proposed EDU STAR system, dubbed a “Consumer Reports” for educational technology, also could promote transparency in the ed-tech product market and encourage innovation.

In “Harnessing Technology to Improve K-12 Education,” published by The Hamilton Project, co-authors Aaron Chatterji and Benjamin Jones maintain that K-12 education has seen much less technological change when compared to other U.S. markets. Chatterji is an associate professor in the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, and Jones is an associate professor of management and strategy in the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

“Despite broad attention to education, however, the United States sees little research and development in the K-12 education sector,” the authors write. “Overall, 2.9 percent of total final expenditures in the United States are spent on R&D. Yet in K-12 education, R&D accounts for only 0.2 percent of expenditure—one-fifteenth the average rate in the economy and one-fiftieth the rate seen in highly innovative sectors.”

Although most policy makers and stakeholders agree that, when implemented correctly, technology can help boost student engagement and achievement, little is known about the effectiveness of particular educational technologies. And schools, already limited by shrinking budgets, are unlikely to invest in technologies with unknown or obscure effectiveness.

“Our future prosperity depends critically on our capacity to educate,” Jones said, adding that the EDU STAR system would create an “ecosystem of innovation.”

The EDU STAR system that Chatterji and Jones propose would hold quick, inexpensive technology evaluations and then disseminate those results among the public in an effort to boost the market for educational technologies.

The system would focus on instructional software in particular. “Educational software should be a prime target for entrepreneurs; the demand for educational improvement is high, and writing instructional software has very few startup costs,” the authors write.

EDU STAR would focus on four goals: