MatchED and the way of the future for permissionless education

In the early days of education savings accounts, several of our intrepid Scooby-gang members wrote and spoke about user reviews as the future of “accountability.” In a multi-vendor system, we argued, the only people qualified to judge whether, for example, Granny Smith’s Piano Lessons were worthwhile were people who took Granny Smith’s piano lessons and so on. How much could students learn from the new exhibition at the museum? Can anyone help me find an occupational therapist in my area? Is Rosetta Stone a useful tool? Customizing generates an endless number of possibilities. Jack Coons and Stephen Sugarman therefore saw the need for a brokering service connecting educators with students back in 1978 in their book Education by Choice:

To us, a more attractive idea is matching up a child and a series of individual instructors who operate independently from one another. Studying reading in the morning at Ms. Kay’s house, spending two afternoons a week learning a foreign language in Mr. Buxbaum’s electronic laboratory, and going on nature walks and playing tennis the other afternoons under the direction of Mr. Phillips could be a rich package for a ten-year-old. Aside from the educational broker or clearing house which, for a small fee (payable out of the grant to the family), would link these teachers and children, Kay, Buxbaum, and Phillips need have no organizational ties with one another. Nor would all children studying with Kay need to spend time with Buxbaum and Phillips; instead some would do math with Mr. Feller or animal care with Mr. Vetter.

The “loved ESAs before they were cool crowd” may have been ahead of our time, but we were also decades behind Coons and Sugarman’s vision casting starting about a decade ago. What we needed was an online platform to collect K-12 education user reviews at the experience level. Lo and behold, we now have one.

From the recently launched MatchED website:

The growth of homeschooling and microschools (now over 6M children nationally), supplementary educational services (tutors, test prep, camps, etc.) and school choice (ESAs, vouchers, tax credits) has created a large market of educators/parents with full flexibility to personalize learning. However, it is very overwhelming and challenging to sort through all the options to find the right fit for their child. MatchED will build and operate technology-enabled matching platforms to create low-friction, high-value matches between producers and consumers in education to make the new era of “matching” education easier and better.

MatchED is a project headed by OpenSky Education’s Andrew Neumann, whose experience stretches from private schools in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program to charter schools and more. Helping families taking the plunge into permissionless education navigate myriad opportunities represents a crucial next step for the choice movement.

The possibilities for a platform like MatchED however is still greater in scope. Imagine a world in which teachers could “hang a shingle” and become their own boss on either a full time or part time basis. A matching service for educators and students has the potential to enormously benefit both.

Stay tuned to this channel for further updates.

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BY Matthew Ladner

Matthew Ladner is executive editor of NextSteps. He has written numerous studies on school choice, charter schools and special education reform, and his articles have appeared in Education Next; the Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice; and the British Journal of Political Science. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and received a master's degree and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Houston. He lives in Phoenix with his wife and three children.