Report: More Students Hit NWEA Reading and Math Targets Through Personalized Learning

A group of school districts that incorporated personalized learning practices in the classroom report achieved average growth of 130 percent in reading and 122 percent in mathematics for approximately 36,000 students who took the NWEA Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) exam. More than half of those students met or exceeded the reading growth and math growth targets.

These findings come out of the third annual report from Education Elements, a national K–12 consulting firm of educators, designers, technologists and change-management experts. Since 2010, the firm has worked with 127 districts, impacting more than 600 schools, 34,000 teachers and 545,000 students across the United States.

For the “2016-2017 Impact Report,” Education Elements shares learning outcomes data from five school districts with established implementations of personalized learning, which can take various definitions and forms at the classroom-level.  

At the Enlarged City School District of Middletown in New York, for instance, more than 7,000 students in grades K–8 achieved significant math and reading gains this year compared to 2014 (when data was last available) as a result of the Core Four personalized instruction program that began four years ago. The program focuses on four areas: integrating digital content, targeted instruction, student reflection and ownership and data-driven decisions.   

On the NWEA MAP, around 65 percent of “all Middletown K–8 students’ growth in reading met or exceeded the nationally normed growth target for their grade,” according to the report. In other words, students experienced an increase of 21 percent since 2014. Students improved more in math: 67 percent met or exceeded the nationally normed growth target for their grade (an increase of 23 percent since 2014).

The resource also complies case studies and advice from districts in 18 states (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Wyoming and Wisconsin) and Washington D.C.

Districts were able to give qualitative feedback on personalized learning. The majority of district leaders surveyed, for instance, believe that teachers are more effective at their jobs (cited by 92 percent) and that students are more engaged in learning (cited by 90 percent) as a result of shifting to student-centered learning. Meanwhile, teachers seems to view personalized learning in a positive light, with nearly three-quarters of teacher respondents saying that they felt more confident (cited by 70 percent) and more effective (cited by 68 percent) using this mode of teaching and learning.  

In addition, the report includes 12 profiles of school “superheroes,” or teachers, coaches, principals and district leaders who have gone above and beyond to implement personalized learning at their schools or districts. Profiles range from a third grade teacher in Arkansas who launched a YouTube channel to share his personalized learning practices with other educators, to a Minnesota principal who turned an old computer lab into a think tank-style collaboration space. The profiles are brief and share what the recipient is most proud of achieving in the past year, and other information.

Countering recent criticism of personalized learning, the data in the Impact Report suggests that thoughtful implementation can create a positive impact in schools — leading to better test scores, as well as increased student engagement and teacher satisfaction.

The full document, “2016-2017 Impact Report,” is available for free on the Education Elements site (with e-mail registration required).

About the Author

Sri Ravipati is Web producer for THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected].