$8 Billion a Year on Ed Tech, but Does It Work? Experts Call for Better Research at Unique D.C. Symposium
The $8 billion–plus ed tech industry has ballooned in recent years as tech tools flood K-12 and higher education to adapt classrooms now largely occupied by digital natives. The primary source for federal ed tech funding under the Every Student Succeeds Act is authorized at $1.65 billion. And while investments in the market slowed last year, private dollars continue to drive massive growth and innovation in the sector.
But in an industry that raised more than $1 billion across 138 venture deals last year, there exists an incongruence in evidence to support that explosion of investor and consumer confidence. Also missing is purchaser demand for proof that these innovations work once they make into the classroom. Experts believe, however, that better ed tech research would likely be driven by demand from schools and districts, and not because investors and tech companies seek evidence to grow business.
In a new study of 63 ed tech companies, 90 percent of respondents reported that they were very or extremely confident that their product has its intended impact, while just over half of those who made claims of efficacy had research to back up their assertion. Overlaid is the finding that only 48 percent of consumers inquire about the relevant research.
“Most surprising to us – only about half of the school districts actually asked for evidence,” said Mahnaz Charania, director of strategic planning in research and program evaluation for Georgia’s Fulton County Schools. “We’re not asking the right questions. So hopefully this research will get us to say, ‘We need to look at this a little deeper and figure out what we need to do about this big gap in what we call quality and what we call evidence.’ ”