How Digital Learning is Boosting Achievement

1 Mar 2014

It’s the early innings of the digital learning revolution but the evidence is piling up.  While it would be nice to have a couple large scale long term definitive randomized controlled trials, but there are hundreds of pieces of direction evidence from EdTech components and promising school models. Following is a summary of promising schools and networks, studies of online and blended learning, studies of math components, studies of literacy components, and evidence of improved productivity.  

1. Blended schools/networks achieve high performance:

  • Mooresville, NC has seen an improvement of 20 percentage points—from 68 percent to 88 percent—in the portion of its students who scored “proficient” on all core-subject state exams, in the subjects of reading, math, and science in the four years since its conversion to a 1-to-1 laptop program.

  • Rocketship Education elementary schools are pioneers in blended learning and in the top 5% of schools service low-income students in California.

  • Carpe Diem-Yuma leads the state in student academic growth and last year achieved an average 92% proficiency and 40% advanced performance on Arizona’s math and reading assessments.

  • KIPP Empower:  In the first year of the blended learning pilot, 95% of kindergartners scored at or above national in math and 96% in reading, while only 9% arrived kindergarten-ready. Based on the results, KIPP LA expanded use of technology to all 9 schools.

  • AdvancePath: 90% enrolling in the blended learning dropout prevention network are likely to earn their high school diploma.

  • Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School, Cincinnati, was converted to a technology-focused school and saw graduation rates skyrocket from about 21% to more than 95%.

  • Combining school improvement with blended learning Partnership for LA Schools was the most improved school system in the state in the 2012-13 year with test score gains outpacing all other mid to large schools districts.

  • The Education Achievement Authority operates 12 innovative blended learning schools in Detroit.  Last year, the K-8 schools exhibited among the most rapidly academic growth in the city with the majority of high schools showing two or more years of growth.

  • Aspire Public School’s second blended learning school, Aspire Titan Academy, combines shared inquiry with DreamBox and i-Ready. Results have been promising enough that the rest of the network will adopt blended learning.

  • Ten of the 22 high performing  Alliance for College Ready Public Schools in Los Angeles implemented a blended learning model with promising results.

  • Summit Public Schools has very high graduation and four year college attendance rates and an innovative blended model.

  • IDEA Public Schools is a high performing network of 30 schools serving 15,000 students serving low income communities in south Texas. Blended learning strategies are boosting elementary results.

  • Hybrid learning is showing results and achieving scale in Pennsylvania.

The best school networks in the country are rapidly adopting blended strategies–a signal about the opportunity set.  School profiles provide a useful summary of models and tools:

2. Studies of online and blended learning show efficacy:

  • The U.S. Department of Education’s Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies of more than 40 studies found that (mostly higher ed) “students who took all or part of their classes online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction.”

  • An IES study of online 8th grade Algebra should positive results.

  • iNACOL’s Summary of Research on the Effectiveness of K-12 Online Learning provides a full review of literature as well as thoughts on the future of online learning research.

  • Project RED data found that the use of technology-based interventions for English-language learners, struggling readers, and students in special education were the top predictors of improved high-stakes-test scores, dropout-rate reduction, and course completion.

  • A comprehensive evaluation concluded that Florida Virtual School students outperformed their counterparts in Florida’s traditional middle and high schools on such measures as grades, Advanced Placement scores and FCAT scores.

  • A recent Summative Meta-Analysis and Trend Examination found that online learning (mostly higher ed) produced better results than face-to-face courses—and the gap is widening as technology improves.  See Q&A: Mickey Shachar On Traditional vs. Distance Learning.

  • Study Finds Arkansas Virtual Academy Students Outperform Public School Students.

  • A study by the National Survey of Student Engagement reported that the online-learning experience yielded deeper use of “higher-order thinking, integrative learning, and reflective learning.”

  • FLVS Part Time Students Dramatically Outperform State Averages on all four state-created End-of-Course (EOC) exams. In Algebra, 84% of FLVS students passed compared to 64% of students statewide.

  • An SRI study showed “moderate to strong effect in favor of digital games in terms of broad cognitive competencies.”

3. Technology-enabled math products have boosted achievement:

4. Technology-enable literacy products have boosted achievement:

  • A Compendium of Read 180 Research summarizes correlational and descriptive studies as well as randomized or quasi-experimental studies, and reports on reading gains for the general student population as well as for specific demographic groups of students. Read 180 is a station rotation model incorporating small group instruction, modeled and independent reading, and adaptive instructional software.

  • A study including more than 250,000 students using Achieve3000 nearly doubled their literacy growth.

  • WriteToLearn has been shown to improve writing skills and reading comprehension in hundreds of classroom studies.

  • Computer-assisted language learning (CALL) is beneficial to English language learners according to a UC Irvine study.

5. Digital learning has the potential to boost learning and operating productivity:

  • In Digital Learning Imperative, the Alliance for Excellent Education first made the case that digital learning was the only solution to the achievement gap, the fiscal gap, and the effective teacher gap.

  • A recent U.S. Department of Education Study outlined nine ways that online learning can boost productivity.

  • The Florida Tax Watch evaluation of Florida Virtual School found, in addition to student achievement gains, that FLVS is “a bargain for Florida taxpayers. Largely because it has no expenses related to transportation or construction and maintenance of physical facilities, FLVS is able to offer computer-delivered instruction at a lower per-student cost than traditional schools.”

  • OpportunityCulture from Public Impact illustrates how technology extends the reach of great teachers.

  • Parthenon Group estimates the potential to save about 10% using blended learning strategies.

Blended learning tools, models and strategies continue to improve and evidence continues to mount.  While it’s early in the revolution, it’s clear that the opportunity set is improving rapidly.  We’d welcome your additions to this compilation.

Also see:

DreamBox, FLVS, EDUCAUSE, Pearson, Scholastic, MIND Research are Getting Smart advocacy partners.

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