The University of Massachusetts Amherst

UMass Donahue Institute

2011 Publication Archive

Impact of the Expeditionary Learning Model on Student Academic Performance in Rochester, New York

From the report's executive summary:

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of the Expeditionary Learning (EL) model on student academic performance in New York's Rochester City School District during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years. Using a quasi-experimental matched comparison group design, scores of two EL schools (one elementary and one middle) and twelve non-EL schools (four elementary and eight middle) were compared on the New York state English Language Arts and mathematics assessments.

Possible pre-existing differences between the EL and comparison schools were addressed in two ways. First, the comparison schools were chosen to match the EL schools on percentage of low-income students and English language learners. Second, differences in student gender, ethnicity, special education status, limited English proficiency status, disability status, and baseline test scores were accounted for using statistical methods.

The two primary outcome statistics were (1) the effect size of participating in an EL school on achieving a score of Proficient or higher on the state assessments, and (2) the percentage of students who would have shifted to a different Proficiency category based on this EL effect size.

The effect of being in an Expeditionary Learning school was positive, substantial, and significant (p < .01) for both years of elementary school mathematics, both years of elementary school English Language Arts, and both years of middle school English Language Arts. The difference between EL and non-EL schools on middle school mathematics in 2007-08 was not statistically significant, and non-EL schools showed a significant advantage (p < .05) in middle school mathematics in 2008-09.

The effect size of enrollment in an EL school suggested that, on the English Language Arts exam, 55% of elementary students and 39% of middle school students would have increased from the Non-proficient level to the Proficient level. On the mathematics exam, the EL effect size suggested that 65% of elementary students would have increased from the Non-proficient level to the Proficient level, and that the percentage of students scoring at the Non-proficient level on the Mathematics exam would have increased by 16%.

These strong and significant impacts should be of interest to those seeking school reform approaches that raise student scores on standardized assessments of elementary and middle school English Language Arts, as well as elementary mathematics. These findings should also raise concerns for those seeking to increase standardized assessment scores in middle school mathematics. Promising directions for future research include applying similar analyses to a larger sample of Expeditionary Learning schools, attempting to determine what aspects of the EL model are most responsible for observed impacts, and employing randomized designs that take advantage of Rochester's enrollment lottery. 

Read the report.


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