Only 25% of the top 100 edtech products meet research standards

With a lack of effectiveness and interoperability not necessarily becoming immediately apparent, vendors should be asked to provide certain certifications for products before leaders incorporate them in their district.

We will never go back to normal, in the edtech sense, at least. That’s become the consensus of nearly every district CIO since the pandemic. Education technology has proven itself too valuable for educators and students. But are they really doing their job? New research suggests that not all of them are.

Last year, we learned about teachers’ profound reliance on edtech during the 2021-22 school year as they cited using 148 different edtech tools, according to LearnPlatform’s research on the effectiveness of such digital learning products. According to that report, the top five platforms used that school year was Google Suite, YouTube, Kahoot!, Google Classroom and Google Sites.

However, just how effective are some of the most-used products? A new report from LearnPlatform details how the 100 most-accessed ed solutions used during the first half of the 2022-23 school year stack up in terms of privacy, interoperability, other certifications and effectiveness. In terms of evidence-based edtech, however, the report suggests “we’re just getting started.”

Data privacy

Student and educator privacy has become one of the most important focuses for districts since the explosion of edtech. But there’s a lot of room for growth.

Only 19% of edtech apps received a “pass rating” from Common Sense, an organization that seeks to make such technology safer and more equitable, while 42% received a “warning rating.”

Other key insights:

  • 41% of edtech provers have signed the Student Privacy Pledge 2020.
  • Only 9% are 1EdTech TrustEd Apps certified.

Effectiveness research

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) suggests there are four levels of evidence aimed at ensuring edtech efficacy and innovation. For edtech providers, they must demonstrate success in one or more of these levels to be deemed eligible for federal funding programs.

Among the top 100 edtech products, only one-fourth meet these research standards:

  • ESSA Level I (strong evidence): 5
  • ESSA Level II (moderate evidence): 0
  • ESSA Level III (promising evidence): 4
  • ESSA Level IV (demonstrates a rationale): 17

“These results show that having (and sharing) ESSA-aligned research is just taking flight, even for established, well-known edtech solutions,” the report reads. “However, large districts, including Los Angeles Unified School District and Chicago Public Schools, are increasingly requiring this information from vendors and in RFPs.”


Efficiency is key for maximizing student learning and engagement. One way edtech products achieve this is through interoperability, in other words, their ability to work with each other. Using five indicators of interoperability from two trusted organizations, the report suggests most apps miss the mark in this area.

1EdTech standards:

Project Unicorn standards:

“Content alignment and product interoperability certifications are also just taking flight, and solution providers aren’t consistently seeking them out,” the report reads. “School, district and state leaders need to demand solution providers meet those they find most valuable.”

More from DA: Why AI education will soon become an integral part of K12 education

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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