public perception buyer beware
BUYER BEWARE: Matt Richtel (yes, he who penned last month's NYTimes' article on stagnant scores that ignited a firestorm over whether technology in the classrooms is worth the bucks) is back, urging caution when hearing about companies' "research" on the efficacy of their offerings. Too frequently, he writes, school purchasing decisions are based "...on marketing, on politics, on personal preference" for products that advertise success, even though those claims may be at odds with the findings reported in the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC), a program established by the U.S. Department of Education to identify and review the effectiveness of edtech products. Of course, the WWC has critics, too. Technology fans also question whether the testing scores (which the WWC relies on) are an appropriate measure of the new products. A recent paper from the President's Council of Economic Advisors summed up the situation succinctly:
"Without effective and credible evaluation, the educational sector cannot determine which products are best. Nor can it be expected that the best products will be adopted, dissuading innovation and limiting the extent to which educational technology can in fact improve outcomes....The ideal evaluation and certification system would be (a) rapid, (b) rigorous, (c) widely trusted and transparent, and (d) low cost for buyers and sellers." Yah, what they said.