05 February 2017
Today’s educational technology market is oversaturated with startups promising their products will revolutionize the classroom experience. School district and university leaders are overwhelmed with options, and determining the merits of each vendor’s products can be a daunting and time-consuming process. As a result, they are often forced to make decisions about what to purchase based on companies’ sales, marketing and branding efforts rather than on empirical data from independent researchers.

Enter Jefferson Education, a revolutionary project cofounded by the Curry School of Education that is directly addressing this challenge. As the nation’s first growth-stage accelerator, it provides educators with innovation backed by scientific evidence. Unlike traditional incubators, Jefferson Education—which is strategically located in the Washington, D.C., area—works with organizations that have moved beyond the startup phase and are looking to demonstrate how their products and services drive measurable achievements in the classroom.
Through the Curry School, these companies are connected to school districts and colleges where their products can be tested by academic researchers from the University of Virginia and other higher education institutions. A Curry School scientific review board oversees the quality of the research and makes the results public; in return for the help they receive, the companies give a small portion of their equity to the accelerator.

Thanks to the generosity of eight families who have donated to the Curry School Foundation in order to provide startup funding for Jefferson Education, the accelerator has already started working with four companies to gauge the effectiveness of their products.

“This accelerator fills an important gap in the market by building bridges between investors, academic researchers and entrepreneurs—all united around a common commitment to students, evidence and efficacy studies,” said Jason Palmer, a member of the Curry School Foundation Board of Directors and a Jefferson Education donor. “There is so much potential for new technologies to positively transform teaching and learning, and I look forward to seeing Jefferson Education establish itself as a thought leader in the multibillion-dollar ed tech market.”

In an effort to achieve this goal, the Curry School and Jefferson Education will cohost an academic symposium in May 2017. The symposium will foster collaboration between five stakeholder groups that rarely team up in support of education technology—academic researchers, entrepreneurs, district and university leaders, investors and philanthropists, and teachers and professors—to facilitate efficacy research in real-world settings and help those developing solutions with the potential to make an impact at scale.

The hope is that by convening these groups, Jefferson Education will help ensure that merit, not marketing, drives which ed tech products and services end up in the classroom—a revolutionary concept that will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the field of education for years to come.

by Jacqueline Lazo
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