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New Accelerator at U Virginia School Putting Ed Innovation to Test

The foundation that supports the University of Virginia Curry School of Education has launched an $11 million initiative to identify and scale promising education innovations. The "Jefferson Education Accelerator" will offer mentoring, analysis, networking opportunities, access to financing and evaluation of products and services to companies in the education sector at the "growth" stage.

The accelerator is a public-private partnership that is separate from the school itself; support comes from the Curry School Foundation, individual alumni and USA Funds, a non-profit organization best known as a student loan guarantor.

The Accelerator will establish a network of K-12 and college-level educators, researchers, business people and investors focused on improving educational outcomes and with an emphasis on research and development. The accelerator will connect companies that have products to test with schools and institutions to try out the offerings. Evaluation of products will be guided, vetted and interpreted by a review board composed of Curry School faculty.

"Successful education technologies must be informed by the insights of teachers, administrators and real-world implementation data," said newly appointed CEO Bart Epstein in a statement. "The number one criterion for investing in education has to be efficacy. We want to bring transparency to the process of evaluating solutions — to help both educators and investors make better informed decisions and make an impact."

Companies that participate in the Accelerator will give a "small portion" of their equity back to the accelerator, which intends to pass some of the proceeds back to Curry's foundation to benefit the school itself.

The board of the accelerator will be chaired by Curry School Dean Robert Pianta, who noted that schools of education have a "responsibility" to equip classrooms with tools that have proven their effectiveness. "We see engaging the education tech sector as a critical component of our mission, providing invaluable experience for faculty and students, and enabling the most impactful solutions to achieve scale."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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