News Feature | November 18, 2016

Ed Tech Evaluation Tool Released By U.S. Department Of Education

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

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Ed Tech RCE Coach helps schools analyze their own data to evaluate their educational technology use.

The U.S. Department of Education has launched Ed Tech RCE Coach, a tool that helps schools analyze their own data to evaluate their educational technology use. The tool is free and open-licensed, and can help teachers answer questions about whether or not their tech actually leads to desired outcomes; whether or not the investment in their current software tools is worth it; and whether or not schools should purchase software being piloted.

“Districts and states are spending millions of dollars buying educational apps (technology applications, tools, and platforms), many of which have minimal evidence supporting their effectiveness. Additionally, once a purchase is made, there is often no systematic process for reviewing the effectiveness of ed tech tools before renewing contracts, which collectively can run into the millions of dollars,” Katrina Stevens, deputy director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, wrote in a blog post.

While studies by ed tech companies are often performed, they are often perceived as biased; thus, the Department of Education decided to create an independent evaluation tool to help provide balanced data. The Education Department is currently looking for schools to beta test the new tool via online registration.

The Education Department expects to add two new research methods to the tool in January that help districts begin to use new technologies that have already been chosen and assist schools that have identified key learning factors that they want to improve through a new software program.

“The new updates will expand the platform’s capabilities to include forward-looking designs that guide district- and school-level educators through the identification of apps, crafting a research question, conducting an effective pilot, and analyzing the results,” Stevens wrote.

RCE Coach also can provide ongoing data more frequently with timelines more aligned to current budget cycles. “The budget cycle is not school-year based. We make budgetary decisions in winter and February, and if we wait until May to see efficacy data, it’s too late to make a decision based on that data,” said Jessica Peters, Associate Director of Personalized Learning, KIPP DC Headquarters. “A three-month pilot period with RCE Coach will enable us to evaluate effectiveness before the purchasing cycle starts.”

“Educators need to make informed decisions and a resource like the RCE Coach can be a really useful tool to inform big decisions,” added Marsha Jones, former associate superintendent of Springdale, AK Public Schools. “Many decisions we make are expensive in time and money, and we need to be good stewards of those investments. A tool like the RCE Coach can help validate and affirm that we’re making a wise investment, given the limited time and money districts have.”