How We Rate and Review

Unbiased, trustworthy, and free

Common Sense Education is a nonprofit with a strong commitment to an unbiased, in-depth editorial process. 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. We're also committed to offering our reviews free to educators. 

Learning ratings philosophy

We connect educators with transformative learning experiences that develop students' and teachers' creative and critical skills, give students and teachers meaningful agency, and help learners build conceptual knowledge. 

We believe properly resourced, well-prepared, passionate, and creative teachers make learning happen -- not tech, tools, or resources. Therefore, we're not interested in the objective or definitive effectiveness of products. Instead, we help teachers discover the most promising learning resources they can adapt to meet all of their students' diverse needs and interests.

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. Learn more about our privacy ratings 

Learning rubric

Our learning ratings are based on a research-backed, 14-point rubric developed specifically to evaluate the transformative learning potential of learning media. This is a time-tested rubric that's been in use since 2012 and has been used to evaluate thousands of tools. Over the years we've modified the rubric based on our experience, shifts in the market, and teachers' needs.

Our rubric is the result of two full years of development and refinement, including two separate literature reviews (both of education research and existing rubrics), interviews with learning and technology experts, consultations with a distinguished advisory board, and a national survey of 300 teachers and 1,100 parents. 

Learning ratings and reviews process

Editors assign products for review to a group of trained freelance reviewers who all have experience in education or related fields. These reviewers then test the products (sometimes with students or kids), and then evaluate the product against our rubric and write a review. Reviewers assign a rating (out of five stars) to the product. They also determine a recommended grade range, the most relevant subjects and skills, and which Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards teachers could address using the tool. The written review offers analysis supporting the rating and implementation tips and ideas. 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. Sometimes the review is sent back to the reviewer for further refinement, re-scoring, final edits, and publication. This process can take anywhere from a week to a few months. 

Learning ratings

One-star rating

 Not Recommended, Poor 

Two-star rating

 Conflicted, Fair 

Three-star rating

 Recommended, Good 

Four-star rating

 Highly Recommended, Very Good 

Five-star rating

 Best in Class, Excellent 

Updates of learning ratings and reviews

Our reviews are updated periodically to keep them factually accurate and current. We strive to promptly correct any factual errors or inaccuracies. If you've noticed any specific factual errors in one of our reviews, please contact us at [email protected].

We also more substantively revisit, revise, and re-score certain tools. 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. If you're a developer and would like your product reevaluated and re-scored, you can submit a request using this form. Unfortunately, due to limited resources, we cannot update every review that's requested. However, we do consider all requests.

Updates of privacy ratings and evaluations

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].

Sharing your learning rating or Common Sense Selection for Learning

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.

Learning ratings staff

Common Sense Education's reviews are led by staff editors with over a decade of experience rating and reviewing learning media. Our editors have personally overseen thousands of published reviews. This editorial experience is combined with years in K–12 and college classrooms and varied experiences in learning design, edtech development, and research.

Common Sense editors oversee a team of expert freelance reviewers. Our reviewers are leaders in edtech and learning media, scholars in child development and learning, instructional designers, K–12 subject area experts, and school technology leaders. They average eight years in classroom experience, and several have published research and/or received prestigious awards for teaching.

Reviewers receive ongoing training in our rubric as well as critical areas in learning, pedagogy, and design. All reviewers are vetted at the time of hiring for active and past relationships with developers and vendors to avoid conflicts of interest.

Conflicts of interest

As a large nonprofit, Common Sense forms relationships -- including licensing deals and marketing partnerships -- with other organizations. When possible, these relationships are formed after our reviews process has been completed. If not, our editorial team may decide not to review a specific product, or may review a product with a disclosure of the relationship. Our reviewers are never made aware of these relationships, and our ratings are in no way influenced, altered, or otherwise affected by any outside organization, any funder, or even non-editorial staff at Common Sense. We also include relevant disclosure notices in reviews if one of these relationships exists either directly (e.g., content licensing) or indirectly (e.g., a product shares a funder with Common Sense). 

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 (whether designed for learning/classrooms or not). We also prefer to review products that teachers and families can choose and use themselves, or advocate for in a school budget. As of now, we avoid large-scale curricula and nondigital resources.

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

Note: Please make sure we haven't already reviewed the tool by searching for it on our site before submitting the form.

Community ratings

Alongside our editorial reviews, we feature thousands of reviews from Common Sense Education community members. These from-the-field teacher reviews offer additional perspectives on the quality and usefulness of learning media. They also provide specific examples of student experiences and creative use cases. These ratings don't represent the perspectives or opinions of Common Sense. 

Common Sense Selections for Learning

Common Sense Selection for learning badge example

The Common Sense seal program recognizes outstanding media with an official seal for quality and impact. Common Sense Selections for Learning are best-in-class media resources and tools that facilitate great learning experiences for students and educators. Common Sense editors make hand-picked, official selections annually based on our independent rating criteria and pedagogical rubric.

Common Sense Selections are only awarded to newly reviewed or recently updated products. Any older reviews, including those that have received Top Pick for Learning badges from us, will only be considered for a Common Sense Selection when those reviews are reconsidered and re-scored during our review update process. 

See the latest Common Sense Selections for Learning