Rapid-Cycle Tech Evaluations Accelerate Decisionmaking

Prepared for
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology
RCE coach

School district administrators across the country routinely make decisions that have the potential to affect students’ outcomes. As school districts invest in new educational technologies, decision makers need timely, trustworthy evidence on the technologies’ effectiveness and the best strategies for implementing them. Traditionally, experience, recommendations, and marketing materials have been used to support these decisions.

The new web-based, interactive research tool, ED TECH RCE COACH, is an easy-to-use evaluation resource that helps school administrators execute low-cost, quick-turnaround evaluations. The ED TECH RCE COACH uses rapid-cycle evaluation to produce the evidence administrators need to make decisions on educational technologies. When school administrators log into the interactive web-based platform, they are prompted to follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Get started. Administrators answer three simple questions about their educational technology, and the Coach recommends an approach to evaluate that technology.
  • Step 2: Plan the research. The Coach guides administrators through the process of crafting a research question, planning how to use results, and describing the context in which the technology is used.
  • Step 3: Prepare the data. Administrators follow a step-by-step guide to identify data sources and create a clean data file.
  • Step 4: Analyze the data. Once data files are uploaded, administrators answer questions about the information contained in the data. The Coach will automatically analyze the data and deliver results.
  • Step 5: Summarize key findings. The Coach compiles the results of the analysis in one succinct document or presentation that can be shared with other stakeholders.

The ED TECH RCE COACH (beta version) was launched for school districts and researchers in the fall of 2016. Mathematica and its partners will test the site in real-world settings and revise it to ensure it meets the needs of districts and developers. The goal of this project is to help empower districts to conduct high quality, low-cost, quick-turnaround, policy-relevant studies.

This project builds on Mathematica’s recent rapid cycle evaluations of the personalized learning strategies used by Race to the Top District grantees. Subcontractors are SRI International and Concentric.