Finding What Works: The Promise of Digital Instructional Tools

LEAP min 2

We all learn in different ways. And when it comes to preparing students with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century, teachers are always looking for new, innovative tools to use in the classroom. High-quality digital content and instructional tools help teachers tailor instruction to students’ needs and interests—and recent studies show just how incredible the results can be.

We learned from our Teachers Know Best series that more than two thirds of teachers—67 percent—are not fully satisfied with the tools they currently have access to. But 93 percent of teachers use digital tools in the classroom to help guide instruction. The LEAP Innovations Network was created to identify and pilot the most promising edtech tools to identify what’s working and where gaps still remain.

The first pilots took place during the 2014-15 school year. LEAP Innovations selected 16 K-8 schools in Chicago to pilot various digital literacy tools. Nearly all of the participating students were from low-income backgrounds or students of color. Using the Northwest Evaluation Association’s (NWEA) MAP assessment to measure literacy/reading comprehension, students participating in LEAP’s Pilot Network gained 1.07 test-score points above the score of the control group—equivalent to closing the achievement gap by 45 percent for low-income students, 78 percent for black students, and 129 percent for Hispanic students. And while pilot results were outstanding across the board, two products stood out as having an extraordinary impact on student learning: Lexia Reading Core5 and ThinkCERCA.

Lexia Reading Core5 is an adaptive, Common Core-aligned literacy tool and winner of the Literacy Courseware Challenge. Among the more than 1,000 students who piloted Lexia, there was a 1.42 point increase in NWEA reading scores—equivalent to closing the achievement gap by 60 percent for low-income students and almost 170 percent for Hispanic students.

Students in the classrooms that piloted ThinkCERCA, an online tool designed to help students form critical thinking skills, gained an additional 6.29 test-score points in NWEA reading scores. These gains are equivalent to closing the achievement gap by 264 percent for low-income students, 456 percent for black students, and a whopping 749 percent for Hispanic students.

As we continue to gain a better understanding of the which tools and innovative teaching practices have the ability to truly transform education, the results from the LEAP pilot are telling: Digital tools, partnered with effective teaching, have the opportunity to open a new world to students.