New WestEd Study Shows Education Technology’s Impact on California Students
Irvine, Calif., Nov 12, 2014 Just one year of education technology in classrooms can move a school that was performing at the 50th percentile in the state up to the 66th percentile in the state according to a study released today by the independent education research firm WestEd and the nonprofit MIND Research Institute.
WestEd measured the impact of MIND’s ST Math® program in 209 second through fifth grades – including more than 19,980 students at 129 California schools across California – that fully implemented the program in a blended learning environment.
The report used several models to measure ST Math’s impact. Those grades using ST Math for one year exhibited 6.3 percent more students scoring proficient or better on the CST, compared to those at similar schools without the program. Getting students to score proficient on the state test meets the No Child Left Behind requirements. Remarkably, the study found that almost all of the improvement was reflected in increases in students scoring advanced, not merely proficient, on the tests. Students in those classes using ST Math exhibited advanced CST math scores at a rate that was, on average, 5.6 percentage points higher than others.
“It’s now a given in education that we will somehow put digital devices into the hands of every K-12 student in every classroom in America, yet people still wonder if technology can actually improve student learning at scale, and there is a dearth of research in this area,” said Andrew R. Coulson, chief strategist at MIND Research Institute. “This report provides compelling evidence that technology indeed helps students learn and, importantly, show results on high stakes assessments – at least if you have a pedagogically effective approach, properly designed software, and teacher support for faithful implementation.”
The ST Math program exemplifies a blended learning approach which not only has students use computerized math lessons, but makes the teacher the central hub of the digital learning ecosystem. Teachers received training on how to use ST Math to supplement their core curriculum and connect the visual puzzles students encountered on the computer to the math concepts and standards they were teaching in their classroom lessons. Additionally, schools received year-round support from MIND’s educational consultants.
This WestEd study measured the impact of ST Math using a statistical term called “effect size,” which is basically a measurement of how strong an impact of an input (in this case ST Math implementation) has on an outcome (such as test scores). The larger the effect size, the greater the impact. WestEd found ST Math’s effect size across the grades in California to be 0.47 – well beyond the federal What Works Clearinghouse criteria of 0.25 for “substantively important” effect. The What Works Clearinghouse, part of the Institute of Education Sciences, gives educators information about what education programs, practices, products and policies actually work.
“We have to move beyond educational technology just being innovative and exciting, it needs to demonstrate a measurable impact on student learning and ST Math continues to do just that,” said Edie Fraser, CEO of STEMconnector. “Showing results that increase advanced math proficiency is especially important, as employers are seeking more and more graduates with strong skills in STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math.”
The rigorous WestEd analysis, which adhered to federal What Works Clearinghouse specifications, reinforces and expands the findings of an earlier WestEd study focusing specifically on ST Math usage in Los Angeles Unified School District. In that study of high-need LA schools, the effect size of ST Math implementation was 0.41.
MIND’s ST Math program provides visual math puzzles that support deep, conceptual understanding of concepts covered by new college and career-ready state standards. Because the math program doesn’t rely on language proficiency or previous math success, it’s accessible for English language learners and children with learning disabilities. And because it provides innovative visualizations and progresses to highly challenging puzzles, it also avoids shallow rote memorization and challenges gifted students. Students use ST Math on computers or tablets, with teacher facilitation, in a blended learning environment. The teachers are trained on how to connect the visual puzzles to their conventional texts and classroom math lessons, and coached on how to guide children through challenging sections by getting them to express their thinking, rather than simply telling them the solution.
Some of the highest need schools included in the new WestEd study were philanthropically funded by MIND’s partners including generous corporate, foundation and individual donors.
About WestEd WestEd, a national nonpartisan, nonprofit research, development, and service agency, works with education and other communities to promote excellence, achieve equity, and improve learning for children, youth, and adults. WestEd has 16 offices nationwide, from Washington and Boston to Arizona and California. Its corporate headquarters are in San Francisco. More information about WestEd is available at WestEd.org.
About MIND Research Institute MIND Research Institute is a neuroscience and education social benefit organization, dedicated to ensuring that all students are mathematically equipped to solve the world’s most challenging problems. MIND's distinctive visual approach to math and problem-solving is the basis of its innovative, research-proven ST Math® programs for elementary and secondary schools. MIND's programs currently reach over 800,000 students and 31,000 teachers in 2,500 schools in 40 states. For more information, visit www.mindresearch.org.