Expeditionary Learning Schools and Professional Development

Prepared for
Expeditionary Learning

Expeditionary Learning (EL) is a rapidly growing provider of curriculum and professional development services for elementary, middle, and high schools. EL’s whole-school reform model combines a highly detailed, interdisciplinary curriculum that focuses on active learning, teamwork, and character education with training and coaching for teachers and school leaders. As of the 2010–2011 school year, EL’s network included a total of 161 schools in 30 states.

In 2013, Mathematica conducted the first rigorous study of the impact of EL middle schools on academic achievement outcomes. Using longitudinally linked, student-level data collected from two urban school districts, New York City and Washington, DC, Mathematica estimated the impacts of five EL middle schools on students’ reading and math test scores. Researchers also collected additional descriptive information on the types of students who enroll in EL schools. Key findings include: 

  • The five EL middle schools examined had a positive and statistically significant impact on student achievement in reading and math.
  • Compared with local district schools, the EL middle schools in the study enrolled elevated higher percentage of Hispanics and English-language learners.

Mathematica is conducting a second evaluation to assess the impact of EL’s Common Core State Standards curriculum and professional development model on novice English Language Arts teachers in grades 4-8. The study includes 70 schools and focuses on impacts on novice teachers and their students. Mathematica is examining teacher practices and retention, and student achievement and behaviors. Observations conducted by the study team are being used to measure teacher practices. In addition, surveys are measuring retention, scores on state assessments are measuring student achievement. and school records are assessing behaviors.

In addition to the impact studies, Mathematica also provides technical assistance to EL, helping to revise its Implementation Review measure (a year-long portfolio review of school and teacher practices) and to improve the process used to collect data on the reliability of the measure. We also provide recommendations for data visualization approaches, to facilitate EL’s presentation of its Implementation Review results to school districts.