Study: Due diligence critical for effective digital curriculum adoption
- A personalized math learning program didn't help students improve on state tests at five schools in Elizabeth, New Jersey, despite heavy backing from organizations including the Gates Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Chalkbeat reports, citing a January 2019 study from Teachers College at Columbia University.
- Teach to One has students work independently online while also spending time in small groups or with a teacher, aiming to adapt to their level of knowledge and identify where they need additional help — but those in the program didn't improve more quickly than those not using it.
- The group behind Teach to One, New Classrooms, has suggested that the study from Columbia University wasn’t broad enough, pointing instead to another study from MarGrady Research that showed students at 14 schools improved MAP test scores, on average, faster than a nationally-representative comparison group.
Tech is as common in classrooms today as a pencil, and curricular tools and resources are increasingly making the jump from physical to digital formats.
Whether it’s a math program, like Teach to One, or an online foreign language course, these computer-based tools often allow students to move forward at their own pace. Some students may feel ready to forge ahead in fractions, while others may need more time on algebraic equations. Some experts argue this allows a real personalized learning approach.
But the research on these tools is still not consistent. As experts found when examining Teach to One, some students tested more strongly after spending time using the program, while others did not.
Administrators looking to add online technology programs to their districts and schools should ask vendors for all available research evidence to back up any claim made in pitches for their products. While backing from philanthropic organizations is worth noting, it’s more important for curriculum administrators to see longterm academic studies before bringing any new tools to their school or district.
It’s also crucial to ask how a program can empower students to do things they wouldn't otherwise be able to, and also to ensure schools have a strategic plan in place so educators know how they’ll fold new tools or programs into their lessons when they arrive.
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