The authors of a new paper for The Hamilton Project have called for a creation of an independent agency used to evaluate the potential of education technology. The agency, which Aaron Chatterji and Benjamin Jones, of Duke University and Northwestern respectively, propose should be named EDU STAR, would spur further development in the sector that has seen little innovation compared to other economic areas.
The Huffington Post is reporting that currently, those who are considering various instructional technologies have little in the way of help in guiding their choices. Very little research is done into how effective each solution is in improving student achievement. The authors contend that this lack means that schools often don't know how well a particular product answers their needs, and very few have the resources to test out each available solution themselves.
The researchers seek to model the new non-profit on the popular Consumer Reports, a magazine run by the independent Consumers Union, which is funded by subscriptions and doesn't solicit advertising or accept free samples in order to maintain its objectivity.
In their paper, Chattering and Jones write that their proposed nonprofit organization would bridge the information gap between market suppliers and schools, test software-based learning tools, and disseminate ratings and other measures of effectiveness online.
Initially, EDU STAR could focus on the academic materials currently being produced in order to help states meet the deadlines for the implementation of the Common Core Standards. Chatterji and Jones see the organization as a partner for publishers, working with them to fine-tune their products before they make their way into classrooms. The testing itself would be done by the very people the products are supposed to help. Schools would form a relationship with EDU STAR to set aside part of their instructional time to allow their students to log into the system and work with the programs submitted for evaluation. The study estimates that full participation from even one large-size school district would provide sufficient testing, and plans include offering software discounts as incentives for schools to participate.
When it comes to disseminating results, the organization would be responsible for creating easily accessible reports detailing the effectiveness of various products and publishing these reports online. EDU STAR would rate each technology on a scale of one to five stars, and would also include supplemental information like how many students have used the software, how it was tested, user ratings from both students and teachers, and how effective the product is for different types of students.