Few federally funded ed innovations show positive gains
- Since 2008, the U.S. Department of Education has spent more than $1.5 billion in grants on nearly 200 educational innovations, but out of 67 evaluations of these innovations — which make up $700 million of the total — only 12, or 18%, found positive effects on student achievement, a federal report finds. The funding system was a test of using evidence to issue grants, with ideas proven to be effective garnering the most money and vice versa, The Hechinger Report notes.
- Barbara Goodson, who works at the consulting firm that analyzed the report's results, said in the article that learning is about changing human behavior, and many innovations aren't successful because that's hard to do — even before factoring in external factors, delayed results or unintended consequences of implementation. She added that standardized testing, which is usually how the effectiveness of programs and interventions is measured, may not be the best method to capture any noticeable impacts.
- More — and more specific — assessments might be a better way to evaluate the effects of educational innovations, but making that happen could be difficult considering many schools' shift in the direction of less testing. But, despite these mixed results, experts say innovation in education remains critical.
The field of education, just like other industries, has been fascinated by innovation in recent years, but this wave, as this report demonstrates, doesn't guarantee positive change among the students it's oftentimes supposed to help.
As the report mentions, a lack of impact on student performance could be attributed to the external factors that affect classrooms on a day-to-day basis. It could also be because of ineffective measurement tools. Or it could be that schools investing in these new innovations or models aren't using or implementing them properly — or at all. It's not a good investment for schools to spend money on technology and other innovations just for the sake of having it. And if schools are spending a decent chunk of what's likely an already limited funding supply on these new tools, a lack of usage doesn't just mean those tools won't aid student achievement; it also means the school will have even less money left over to try and improve performance and outcomes. At the end of the day, that's a very difficult — maybe even impossible — task.
Additionally, when policymakers make way for new, hi-tech programs and systems to enter classrooms, they may not always consider that many districts and schools — especially those that are rural or serve a majority low-income population — may not have the resources or infrastructure needed to support these systems. With many innovations, broadband access is a cornerstone to implementation, but some rural schools, as well as the towns in which they're located, are still struggling to gain access.
A few years ago, two IT leaders shared their advice on what schools and districts should consider when deciding what technology to invest in. Among them: asking how the technology will empower students and transform learning, as well as developing a strategic plan. A more recent study noted three categories school leaders could use to measure how ed tech shapes learning outcomes: investment, engagement and impact.
In investing in educational innovations, it's important to consider how many districts and schools can support these initiatives. It's also important to consider what other tools, aside from new technologies or programs, can serve as other pieces of the puzzle.
- The Hechinger Report The ‘dirty secret’ about educational innovation
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