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Research at Edmentum: Using Exact Path to Drive Growth for English Language Learners

Tuesday, September 5, 2017 -- Shannan LaMalfa

As classrooms and student needs become more diverse, especially as English language learner (ELL) populations continue to grow, the pressure to provide a personalized learning experience for every student is ramping up. And that’s a good thing. Now more than ever, education is critical to students’ later success, and it is one of the most effective ways to address issues of poverty and inequality. But, for educators working directly with these students, providing that personalization can be a daunting task. That’s the challenge we set out to solve with our newest program to support personalized learning, Exact Path. We built this powerful adaptive assessment and instructional tool based on the feedback and needs of educators—including our own experiences—and now we’re backing it up with in-depth efficacy studies.

In 2009, when I was a district administrator, I was challenged to turn around literacy and numeracy achievement. Part of that focus was closing the achievement gap at our high-poverty, high-ELL elementary school. This required taking a targeted Title I program and applying the Title I schoolwide, as well as reorganizing Title III funding. In 2013, after four years of hard work (the teachers did the really challenging work; I simply managed the staff development and funding), we received recognition from our state department of education for “Beating the Odds Against Poverty.” Such an award was a big deal, but the bigger deal was the student achievement. To impact learning in such a significant way is the reason educators do what we do. After all, “To teach is to touch lives forever.” This turnaround took teamwork and the collaboration of many stakeholders, and as I reflect, I find myself saying, “I wish I had Exact Path (back then).” 

Based on decades of rigorous research, Edmentum Exact Path utilizes an algorithm-based adaptive diagnostic assessment to create an individualized learning path for each student. This combination of adaptive assessment and personalized content helps educators target students’ specific strengths and weaknesses and continuously monitor progress, and it allows students to progress at their own pace by building upon skills sequentially. Honestly, it’s a pretty amazing computer-assisted instructional tool that I wish existed years ago when I was an administrator.

Whether you are in a small rural district with a handful of ELLs or a large urban district with a primary population of ELLs, you know that meeting the diverse needs of these learners is essential to the work we do as educators every day. If you are a classroom teacher, principal, or district administrator, you are likely aware that there is an increase in ELL enrollment in public schools. The U.S. Department of Education (2016) reports that English learners are the fastest-growing population in our nation’s schools, currently comprising 10 percent of public school students. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the State of California has the largest number of ELLs at 22.4 percent of enrollment, with Nevada following at 17.0 percent. These growing and diverse student groups require educators to draw upon new resources and tools to close the achievement gap between ELLs and non-ELLs. As the recently published Title III guidance to the Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA) states, “With effective, research-based supports and access to excellent educators, [English learners] can achieve English language proficiency and perform academically at the same high levels as their non-[English learner] peers.” Edmentum Exact Path is such a research-based support that has been proven to be effective with ELLs.

Exact Path supports the varied needs of your ELLs through a flexible approach to learning. The diagnostic assessment empowers educators to determine the exact areas where a student needs remediation, as well as those where a student may be ahead of grade level—a situation that is all too common among ELLs. Then, the program scaffolds every learner with multimodal instruction that includes listening, speaking, reading, and writing activities, enabling ELLs to navigate their learning path independently and build critical language skills. For educators, Exact Path provides big-picture and skill-by-skill data views to support real-time progress monitoring, along with a variety of skill-aligned lessons and activities to help deliver the kinds of targeted interventions that efficiently personalize learning.  

Exact Path for ELLs

And, we’ve done the research to prove the effectiveness of Exact Path. We recently completed a study analyzing student growth when using Exact Path, and our findings show that the program meets the needs of ELLs, based on ESSA criteria for evidence. For this study, student growth at a diverse site was measured for the 2016–17 school year using Exact Path scale scores. Both ELL students and non-ELL students showed academic growth over the school year, with ELL students exhibiting no disadvantage and showing the same diversity and range of growth as non-ELLs. What this means is that the personalized learning paths in Exact Path meet the needs of ELLs so that they are making the same gains as their non-ELL peers. Essentially, Exact Path provides your ELLs with an equal opportunity to learn.

Here’s a brief preview of the methodology and results of our upcoming “Exact Path: Growth Analysis for ELL Populations,” study:  

  • A very large school district in the Western census region using Exact Path provided individual student demographics.
  • The student population is 32% ELL, 12% IEP, and 88% Hispanic.
  • Growth was measured for the 2016–17 school year using Exact Path scale scores.
  • The distribution of growth scores shows no significant difference between groups.
  • ELL students exhibit no disadvantage and show the same diversity and range of growth as non-ELLs.
  • Most importantly, the average growth is above zero for both groups.

Exact Path ELL vs Non-ELL Growth Distribution

These findings are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what Exact Path can do to impact achievement and support all kinds of learners, including ELLs. In fact, Exact Path has recently been awarded a WIDA PRIME V2 correlation, indicating the program’s ability to meet ELL students’ listening, speaking, reading, and writing needs. For Edmentum, this was an exciting honor and validation of the extensive research base behind Exact Path’s development. Receiving correlations such as the WIDA PRIME V2 is just one of the many ways we’re working to fulfill our commitment to being educators’ most trusted partner, and we can’t wait to see how you put Exact Path to use to help ELLs make meaningful progress!

Interested in learning more? Check out this brochure to find out how Edmentum Exact Path can Drive Academic Growth for English Language Learners!