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J-PAL North America calls for proposals from education leaders

MIT research center aims to support leaders in rigorously evaluating promising uses of education technology and innovative educational practices.
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J-PAL North America, a research center at MIT, has announced a new call for proposals designed to help education leaders identify effective practices that utilize education technology. 

With schools adopting innovation and technology at a rapid pace, decision makers are demanding rigorous evidence to help determine which programs improve educational outcomes, especially for underserved students.

Through its Education, Technology, and Opportunity Competition, J-PAL North America invites education organizations and agencies to apply for support from the research center to develop randomized evaluations that can test and help improve the effectiveness of promising education technologies. In particular, J-PAL North America is interested in partnering with education leaders to generate evidence on promising instructional models that use technology to improve learning. 

Selected applicants will receive pro bono technical support from J-PAL staff and access to J-PAL’s network of leading academic researchers to help them design and implement randomized evaluations of their programs. In addition, applicants may be eligible for up to $50,000 in funding from J-PAL North America to help develop a randomized evaluation.

In the previous round, J-PAL North America selected two partners to develop randomized evaluations, respectively, of an online math program and a family engagement platform that leverages multilingual translation.

Selected partners will join a network of education leaders who are committed to generating critical evidence on the effectiveness of education technologies and acting upon this evidence to improve the lives of students.

By participating in past rigorous evaluations, education leaders have gained critical and credible information on how their programs can help improve student learning.

“As the founder of a company seeking to improve literacy for children, I felt a strong obligation to know whether our program was actually making a difference by improving the vocabularies of children," says Shane DeRolf, founder and CEO of Big Word Club, an ed-tech company focused on reducing the word gap in early childhood. "By partnering with J-PAL North America and academic researchers on a randomized evaluation, we gained actionable knowledge on our program's impact and now have the confidence to market Big Word Club to a broader network of parents, educators and schools."
Beyond helping individual education leaders answer practical questions about which education technologies work, the competition aims to grow the broader evidence base for promising models in education that have the potential to scale.

"Technology can help make massive inroads for how to best help our kids learn," says Peter Bergman, assistant professor of economics and education at Columbia University and a co-chair of J-PAL’s Education, Technology, and Opportunity Initiative. "We have a unique opportunity to bring together researchers and education leaders to generate rigorous evidence on which uses of education technology and innovation truly work and why. We hope the insights generated from these studies will help move the entire education ecosystem forward." 

Details on how to apply to the Education, Technology, and Opportunity Competition can be found online. Eligible applicants include K-12 school districts, school networks, charter management organizations, education agencies at all levels of government, and education nonprofits. 

Applications to the competition are due on April 1, and winners will be announced by early June. J-PAL North America will be hosting a webinar on Feb. 8, from 1:00 to 2:00 PM ET to provide an introduction to the competition, review the application process, and respond to questions. Prospective applicants are also encouraged to contact Initiative Manager Vincent Quan directly with questions.

J-PAL North America’s education technology work is supported by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and the Overdeck Family Foundation. J-PAL North America, a regional office of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, was established with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. It works to reduce poverty by ensuring that policies are informed by scientific evidence.

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