Economists propose EDU STAR

column | Technology Tips

Economists propose EDU STAR

Oct 3, 2012

'ASSUME A CAN OPENER': Did you hear the joke about the three hungry people--one an economist--stranded on an island with a can of tuna fish? They take turns trying to open the can. Finally it comes down to the economist, who begins with: "Assume a can opener."

That story came to mind when we read the recent proposal by two economists to create what they dub a "consumer reports" for education technology. We're huge fans of the idea of sharing feedback and commentary on education technology. The whole reason EdSurge got started in the first place was to do our bit to add clarity to a muddled marketplace. But at our core, we believe that people need a variety of sources of information about the effectiveness of their tools.

The kind of automated assessment proposed by the economists skips past the most challenging -- and rewarding -- realities of education. Making progress in the complex educational ecosystem requires teachers, administrators, students, parents and even the entrepreneurs building products to appreciate the nuances of each party's roles. Relying on an overly narrow ratings system invites decisions that will be as misguided as they are precise.

We're not alone in our discomfort with EDU STAR. The king of reviewing free-tech tools for teachers, Richard Byrne blasted the idea:

"Their ideas smack of people who do not truly understand the challenges facing public schools today. They, like many other "experts," are trying to apply a business school model to K-12 schools."

Uberblogger Audrey Watters was simply dismayed:

"Ah, educational research. Ah, test scores. Ah, Common Core. Ah, what a very limited definition of “learning” (and by extension then, a very limited set of tech tools that would even be eligible for review)."

Us? We're just seeing visions of $5 million-dollar can openers.

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