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Major Study Shows: EL Education Literacy Partnerships Drive Higher Student Achievement

A rigorous evaluation of the Teacher Potential Project by Mathematica Policy Research finds that higher student literacy achievement results from combining EL Education’s top-rated English Language Arts curriculum with actionable professional learning for teachers.

The Landscape

School districts across the country are searching for evidence-based pathways to improving student outcomes. Faced with rigorous state standards and persistent racial and economic educational inequalities (1), as well as three decades of stagnant reading skills (2), many leaders have embraced professional development as a means of improving teacher practices and student learning. 

Yet studies show that professional development initiatives often do not correspond with better teacher performance or higher student outcomes (3). In response, the field is now converging on a new direction: grounding professional learning in engaging, standards-aligned, content-rich curriculum (4).  

A new study by Mathematica Policy Research, a leading social science research organization, is one of the first to assess the impact of this integrated approach. The results of EL Education’s Teacher Potential Project (TPP) confirm the potential of this capacity-building model: after just one year of participating in the new initiative, teachers show marked improvement in classroom practices and engagement. After two years of participation, student outcomes on state ELA assessments are significantly higher. These findings reflect a core conviction of EL Education’s approach–that empowering teachers to become effective and innovative educators is a critical pathway to realizing all students’ potential. 

>> Download the Impact Summary.

The Teacher Potential Project

The Teacher Potential Project (TPP) was launched in 2014 with a five-year, $11.9 million Investing in Innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Education with matching support from the private sector. Teachers taking part in TPP participated in a variety of activities, including on-site institutes, coaching from EL Education professionals, interactive webinars, lesson studies, classroom observations, and professional learning communities (PLCs) within their schools. In addition, the project provided professional development for school leaders and instructional coaches.

These experiences focused on equipping educators to effectively implement EL Education’s English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum, an open-source curriculum for grades K through 8 that has received the highest ratings from EdReports and other independent reviews. The curriculum is driven by real-world content and demonstrates EL Education’s commitment to meeting high standards, embedding character and equity, reflecting diversity, and promoting high-quality work in its instructional materials.

Study Design

Mathematica Policy Research (MPR) conducted a rigorous independent evaluation. The study included 70 participating schools from 18 districts across the country and included students between fourth and eighth grade representing diverse backgrounds (see sidebar).  The Teacher Potential Project evaluation included both a one-year randomized controlled trial (RCT), often referred to as the “gold standard” for education research due to its rigorous design, and a smaller, two-year quasi-experimental study. To assess the impact of TPP, the Mathematica team evaluated teachers’ practices and student achievement at schools participating in TPP compared to those in the control group, collecting a variety of data, including teacher surveys, classroom observations, and student ELA test scores before and after the implementation of TPP.

At the end of the first year of participation, researchers found that TPP had a robust impact on teachers’ classroom practices. Now, in an analysis of student outcomes up to a full year following their teachers’ participation in TPP, the research team finds that the impact of TPP goes beyond teachers; improvements in teacher quality are leading to higher student achievement.  

Teacher Impact Findings

One year after adopting TPP, the teachers participating in the study showed significant growth in their general instructional practices as well as specific skills that research shows are key to higher student achievement, such as engaging students in reading, writing, and speaking about texts; supporting students’ higher-order thinking; and increasing students’ use of textual evidence.

A single year of TPP showed positive, statistically significant impacts on teachers' overall ELA instructional practices.

-Mathematica Policy Research

Student Impact Findings

This new report connects the dots between the teacher impacts observed after one year of the Teacher Potential Project and the study’s results: increased student achievement in English Language Arts (ELA).  The researchers found that the students of TPP teachers (including those who received one year and those who received two years of professional development support) demonstrated significantly higher ELA achievement than students in the control group. Not surprisingly, the students whose teachers had two years of direct professional learning support from TPP demonstrated even higher performance, with their growth equivalent to an added 1.4 months in just one school year.

Implications of the Teacher Potential Project

EL Education’s Teacher Potential Project offers a model for districts and schools to promote student engagement and close opportunity gaps in academic outcomes. This new study shows that integrating professional development with EL Education’s innovative curriculum has the potential to shift the dynamics of classrooms and improve student outcomes. These results provide school districts with an evidence-based pathway to helping students become college- and career-ready.


The Teacher Potential Project included 70 schools

Across 18 districts 10,159 students

The 70 schools participating in the study come from 18 districts. Participating schools served diverse students, 71% of whom were economically disadvantaged, and had below-average student achievement scores.


In July 2019, Mathematica published the complete results for the Teacher Potential Project, finding significant positive impact on both teacher practice and student achievement. An Executive Summary is included in the full report.

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In October 2017, Mathematica published a brief reporting early impact after one year of study of the Teacher Potential Project. Mathematica found that EL Education’s professional development, combined with curriculum, empowers both novice and veteran teachers to change their practice to meet and exceed state standards.

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In November 2018, Mathematica published another interim brief reporting sustained positive results on effective teacher practice after two years of study of the Teacher Potential Project. The findings indicated powerful opportunities to reimagine and nurture teacher potential.

Read more

A Public-Private Partnership 

A requirement of the five-year Investing in Innovation validation grant from the U.S. Department of Education was to secure support for the Teacher Potential Project from the private sector. In the early months of 2014, private donors stepped up to provide $1,200,000 in matching funds. This landmark research study would not have been possible without their interest and support. 

EL Education recognizes the following individuals and private foundations for their investment in the Teacher Potential Project: Marjorie Buckley, Greg Farrell, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Todd and Janis Gomez, Habe Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Andrew and Julie Klingenstein Fund, The Esther A. & Joseph Klingenstein Fund, Lee Klingenstein, John and Patricia Klingenstein Fund, Thomas D. Klingenstein Fund, The Klingenstein-Martell Foundation, Pritchard Foundation, Melissa and R. Bruce Rich, Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, Irwin W. Silverberg, Dhuanne and Douglas Tansill Family Foundation, Harriet and Paul Weissman, Ginger and Geoff Worden, Alexandra Buckley Voris, and Joanne and Peter Ziesing.