EL Education Schools and Teacher Professional Development

Prepared for
EL Education

EL Education (formerly Expeditionary Learning) is a rapidly growing provider of curriculum and professional development services for elementary, middle, and high schools. EL Education’s whole-school reform model combines a highly detailed, interdisciplinary curriculum that focuses on active learning, teamwork, and character education with training and coaching for teachers and school leaders.

In 2013, Mathematica conducted the first rigorous study of the impact of EL Education middle schools on academic achievement outcomes. Using longitudinally linked, student-level data collected from two urban school districts, New York City and Washington, DC, Mathematica estimated the impacts of five EL Education middle schools on students’ reading and math test scores. Researchers also collected additional descriptive information on the types of students who enroll in EL Education schools. Key findings include:

  • The five EL Education middle schools examined had a positive and statistically significant impact on student achievement in reading and math.
  • Compared with local district schools, the EL Education middle schools in the study enrolled elevated higher percentage of Hispanics and English-language learners.

Mathematica conducted a second evaluation to assess the impact of EL Education’s Teacher Potential Project, a Common Core State Standards curriculum and professional development model on novice English Language Arts teachers in grades 4-8. Funded by a U.S. Department of Education Investing in Innovation (i3) grant, the rigorous group design study included 70 schools in 18 districts across the country. Using classroom observations, teacher surveys, and student scores on state assessments, Mathematica’s evaluation focused on the one-year and two-year impacts on novice teachers and their students. Key findings include:

  • After novice and experienced teachers participated in the Teacher Potential Project for one year, there were positive impacts on their overall English language arts instructional practices compared to teachers who used their district-provided curriculum and participated in their district’s professional development supports. There were also positive impacts for specific instructional practices that were aligned to the Common Core State Standards, such as engaging students in reading, writing, and/or speaking about texts, supporting students’ use of text evidence, and supporting students to engage in higher order thinking.
  • After two years of teacher participation, impacts on their students’ English language arts achievement were roughly equivalent to 1.4 months of typical student improvement, or moving an average student scoring at the 50th percentile to the 54th percentile.

In addition to the impact studies, Mathematica also provided technical assistance to EL Education, helping to revise its Implementation Review measure (a year-long portfolio review of school and teacher practices) and to improve the process used to collect data on the reliability of the measure. We also provided recommendations for data visualization approaches, to facilitate EL Education’s presentation of its Implementation Review results to school districts.