ESSA Strong research study finds equal gains among English Learners and non-ELs
Many English Learners (ELs) across the United States have gone months without exposure to the academic English they require for success in school and that they would normally receive in formal education settings. A lack of access to connectivity and devices for distance learning, especially in low-income and under-resourced communities, has resulted in ELs being at a high risk for suffering from “COVID learning slide.” However, a recent study on the Lexia® PowerUp Literacy® (PowerUp) adaptive blended learning program found that PowerUp users outgained non-users by nearly 30 points. In fact, the program was more than 2.5 times more effective than typical interventions for both EL and non-EL middle school students. The cluster randomized control trial met ESSA’s standards for Strong Evidence—the highest tier of efficacy evidence outlined by federal law.
“According to a report from the Council of the Great City Schools, instructional technology that both accelerates learning and supports academic language development is particularly important for ELs, ” said Lexia Chief Learning Officer Dr. Liz Brooke. “Since ELs have been especially hard hit by the pandemic, the fact that PowerUp is proven to help this population just as effectively as their non-EL peers will be an important part of post-COVID recovery.”
Developed to address the decades-long gap in reading proficiency across the nation, Lexia PowerUp Literacy is designed to enhance core English language arts instruction for struggling readers in grades 6-12. Blending personalized online student-driven instruction with teacher-delivered lessons and activities, the program accelerates the development of both fundamental literacy skills and higher-order thinking skills through adaptive learning paths. PowerUp is currently used by more than 300,000 students globally.
Lexia partnered with a mid-sized, Title 1 school district located in the Boston metropolitan area to evaluate PowerUp versus an alternate blended learning reading program.
The study focused on 122 sixth-grade students enrolled in six supplemental reading classes at two district middle schools. The classes met two to three days per week and provided students with extra time to work on literacy skills. Classes were randomly assigned to one of the two programs.
PowerUp provided explicit instruction in word study, grammar and comprehension, while the alternate program primarily provided only comprehension practice.
PowerUp’s more well-rounded and explicit approach ultimately proved more effective: After a full school year, students who used PowerUp demonstrated significantly improved performance on a measure of reading comprehension and general reading ability compared to a control group. PowerUp users gained an average of 24.9 points—a 35% improvement—while the control group declined 3.4 points.
Further, researchers found that both EL and non-EL students benefited equally from PowerUp. Current and former English Learners made up 43% of the population studied. “The fact that both ELs and non-ELs experienced similar benefits proves that PowerUp is successful in promoting important foundational literacy skills for a wide range of learners,” said Lexia President Nick Gaehde. “The ‘Strong’ rating means the study meets the strictest criteria for research outlined by ESSA. This study extended findings from previous research on PowerUp, which had shown the program’s effectiveness for general reading ability. Now, educators can also see high-quality evidence of PowerUp’s efficacy in supporting ELs.”