How We Rate and Review

Our learning reviews and philosophy

Our expert reviews are unbiased, trustworthy, and free evaluations of educational technology tools. We connect educators with transformative learning experiences that develop students' and teachers' creative and critical skills, give them meaningful agency, and help learners build conceptual knowledge. 

We believe that properly resourced, well-prepared, passionate, and creative teachers make learning happen—not tech, tools, or resources. We help teachers discover the most promising learning resources that they can adapt to meet all of their students' diverse needs and interests.

Our ratings and reviews of learning media aren't influenced by developers or funders, and we never receive payments or other compensation for our reviews. 

Please note: Learning reviews are separate from Common Sense's privacy evaluations. They're also separate from community reviews, which are from-the-field teacher reviews that offer additional perspectives and provide specific examples of student experiences and creative use cases. Community reviews don't represent the perspectives or opinions of Common Sense. 

How do we determine our ratings?

Our learning ratings are based on a research-backed, 14-point rubric developed in 2012 to evaluate the transformative potential of learning media. Our rubric is the result of two full years of development and refinement, including two separate literature reviews, interviews with learning and technology experts, consultations with a distinguished advisory board, and a national survey of 300 teachers and 1,100 parents. 

Editors assign products for review to a group of trained freelance reviewers who have experience in education or related fields. These reviewers then test the products, evaluate the product against our rubric, and write an analysis that supports the rating and includes tips and ideas about how to use it. 

The review is then revised by at least one editor on the Common Sense Education editorial team. During this process, the editor might test the product and modify the review and score. This process can take anywhere from a week to a few months. 

Learning ratings

One-star rating

 Poor (Not Recommended)

Two-star rating

 Fair (Conflicted)

Three-star rating

 Good (Recommended)

Four-star rating

 Very Good (Highly Recommended)

Five-star rating

 Excellent (Best in Class) 

Review requests and priorities

Currently, our learning ratings and reviews focus on products that have some kind of digital component (e.g., a website, an app, etc.) and that are useful for learning. Editors consider the following factors when deciding to review a product:

  • Requests from educators
  • Requests from developers
  • Coverage needs 
  • Popular, trending, and interesting products

Have something in mind that fits our criteria? Request a new review.

While we do consider all requests, due to limited resources, we cannot complete every review. 

Updates of learning ratings and reviews

Our reviews are updated periodically to keep them factually accurate and current. These updates are selected by the editorial team based on editorial discretion, including the popularity of a review, the extent of changes to the product, and developer requests. 

Are you a developer who would like your product reevaluated and rescored? Request an update.

Updates of privacy ratings and evaluations

Some of our reviews also feature in-depth privacy ratings and evaluations. These evaluations are independent of our learning ratings. Our privacy evaluations examine the policies and terms of products, surfacing any potential concerns.

The Privacy Program keeps track of changes to privacy policies for products that have received a privacy rating and automatically alerts our team members to update the product's evaluation. However, if you'd like to let our team know about a product with a privacy rating that needs an update, please email us at [email protected].

Learn more about our privacy ratings. 

Common Sense Selections for Learning

Common Sense Selection for learning badge example

Common Sense Selections for Learning are transformative media resources and tools that facilitate excellent learning experiences for students and educators. Common Sense editors hand-pick our official selections annually based on our independent rating criteria and pedagogical rubric.

Common Sense Selections are given only to newly reviewed or recently updated products. Older reviews will be considered for a Common Sense Selection only if and when those reviews are reconsidered and rescored during our review update process. If you've received a learning rating or Common Sense Selection for Learning and you'd like to share with your networks, please see this guide.