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A Reason to Believe: After 20 Years of Stagnation, Proof Student Literacy Can Improve

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    EL Education

NEW YORK, 2/4/2020—The recent disappointing NAEP (“Nation’s Report Card”) results reflect years of stagnation; today, just over a third of 4th graders are proficient readers. Coupled with the increasing realization that many classrooms aren’t employing best practices based on the research on literacy, the result is a nation grappling with how to ensure that all students learn to read. 

EL Education, a K-12 nonprofit, released new evidence from two third-party studies—a major federal “gold standard” study, The Teacher Potential Project, and the “WestED EL Education ELA K-2 Study”—and early results from a partnership with Detroit Public Schools Community District that disrupt the national trends and give reason to believe that excellent and equitable student results are within reach.

Each study found that pairing EL Education’s research-aligned Language Arts Curriculum with teacher support results in improved teacher practice and leads to higher student achievement for all students. EL Education’s rigorous curriculum, a free open educational resource, integrates social-emotional learning, follows the science of how students learn to read, and ensures all students have access to complex texts so they learn to read, write, and think at their grade level.

“Literacy is a civil right. All students deserve a high-quality literacy curriculum that will prepare them for success as readers, writers, thinkers, and leaders ready to meet the challenges of our future,” said Beth Miller, EL Education Chief Knowledge Officer. 

The Teacher Potential Project (TPP), a five-year study supported by a federal “Investing in Innovation” grant, was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research (MPR), an international leader in educational research. The study included more than 10,000 students in 4th-8th grade from 70 schools in 18 districts across the U.S. More than 70 percent of the students were economically disadvantaged and racially and ethnically diverse. After one year of EL Education’s integrated coaching and curriculum support, there was a significant, positive impact on teachers’ instructional practices. In the second year of the study, teacher practice change was sustained and student achievement improved significantly.

A rigorous study of EL Education’s K-2 Language Arts Curriculum conducted by WestED in a large district in Tennessee during the 2018-2019 school year found that the combination of EL Education’s comprehensive curriculum with professional development coaching results in significant improvements in student achievement in the first academic year of implementation. The treatment group consisted of 1,095 students in seven schools across the district, of whom 86% were Black and 64% were economically disadvantaged.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District set out to shift the trajectory of their school district by implementing a robust five-year education reform plan. As part of that plan, the district partnered with EL Education for the implementation of our K-8 Language Arts Curriculum. In 2018, EL Education began the implementation process of EL’s K-8 Language Arts Curriculum to impact roughly 30,000 students in the district. After just one year of literacy partnership with EL Education, students in Detroit posted their highest-ever scores on the Michigan ELA Assessment: M-STEP. In all but one tested grade, they also outperformed the state in growth.

Implementing high-quality curricula that holds students to high standards is complex and challenging work. This research demonstrates that supporting teachers with professional development makes a difference in ensuring that teachers are able to bring the curriculum to life in their classroom and meet the needs of all learners.

More About EL Education

EL Education is a leading K-12 nonprofit empowering teachers to transform schools in diverse communities across America. For more than 25 years, EL Education has brought to life a three-dimensional vision of student achievement that includes mastery of knowledge and skills, character, and high-quality student work. By promoting active classrooms that are alive with discovery, problem-solving, challenge, and collaboration, EL Education’s curriculum inspires teachers to fulfill their highest aspirations and motivates students to achieve more than they think possible.

Media Contact

Alexandra Fenwick-Moore, Associate Director of Communications 
646-517-6911 or afenwick@eleducation.org