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K-2 Language Arts Curriculum Study

A rigorous study of EL Education’s K-2 Curriculum finds large impact on student progress in the first year.

What does it take to help children learn to read? A new study of EL Education finds that a high quality, research-based curriculum combined with coaching for teachers can drive surprising results: in just one academic year, children make remarkable progress.

WestED, a leading national research firm, examined the impact on student literacy achievement of the EL Education K-2 ELA curriculum combined with professional learning during one academic year. Students in schools in a large Tennessee district using the curriculum whose teachers received professional development were compared to a national comparison group. The Tennessee students scored significantly higher, testing at the 52nd percentile compared to the 39th percentile for the comparison group, equivalent to a medium-to-large effect size of .44.

Primary grade students in kindergarten through second grade are building skills for reading that will support them through the rest of their school experience and beyond. The EL Education K-5 Language Arts curriculum is a comprehensive core language arts program that engages students through compelling, real-world content. Based on the science of reading research, it includes both a content-rich set of complete texts and foundational skills development.

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Study Design

WestEd conducted a quasi-experimental study in a large school district in Tennessee during the 2018-2019 school year. The treatment group consisted of 1,095 students in seven schools across the district, of whom 86% were Black and 64% were economically disadvantaged. These schools implemented both the Curriculum Modules and Reading Foundations Skills Block components of the EL Education ELA Curriculum.

Figure 1: Student Demographics

The NWEA MAP Growth reading assessment Spring 2019 scores served as the main outcome measure for the study. The treatment group was compared to a national comparison group created by NWEA from schools and districts not using the EL Education curriculum. Students from the treatment and comparison groups were matched based on school and district demographics, grade level, and starting MAP score to ensure that the samples were similar for this quasi-experimental study.


Treatment schools were provided with a variety of supports to promote quality implementation of the curriculum. Teachers and leaders in the treatment group received a two-day institute during the summer as a kick-off for implementation with an additional day-long institute at mid-year, in-person coaching days over the course of the school year, and monthly optional webinars.


The researchers use T-tests to estimate the difference in scores on the spring assessment administration between the treatment group and the national comparison group. Treatment students scored 13 percentile points higher than comparison group students, a finding that is statistically significant. The effect size is .44, which is considered medium-to-large. The largest achievement differences between the treatment and comparison groups were for Kindergarten and Grade 1 students.

Figure 2: MAP Reading Percentiles for Treatment Group and National Comparison Group


This study indicates that the combination of EL Education’s comprehensive curriculum with coaching results in significant improvements in student achievement in the first academic year of implementation. The impacts are relatively large, especially for students in kindergarten and first grade.

The researchers also conducted a study comparing the treatment students with students in eight district schools that implemented only the Module lessons without the Foundational Skills Block and which did not participate in coaching from EL Education. In this comparison, which used a different, multilevel modeling design (see WestED summary for further details), the students in the seven treatment schools outperformed the in-district comparison group by 7.8 percentile points. The result is statistically significant and has an effect size of .31.

The results of the EL Education K-2 Curriculum study provide the type of evidence called for by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to ensure that the decisions of district leaders result in increased student achievement. The study is being submitted to the What Works Clearinghouse and is expected to meet the requirements for moderate evidence.