Grant Recipient: WestEd
Principal Investigator: Mingyu Feng, Ph.D., WestEd
Neil Heffernan, Ph.D., Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Term: 2020 — 2027
Funding: $410,146 from Arnold Ventures, with an additional $7.9 million provided by the U.S. Department of Education’s Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Program
Summary: This project will extend a large-scale randomized controlled trial (RCT), launched through a $7.9 million grant from the EIR Program, to evaluate the ASSISTments platform using a virtual teacher training model. ASSISTments is an online math study tool that provides students with real-time homework support, and provides teachers with timely reports on student performance (e.g., concepts/problems that students are struggling with) that teachers use to tailor lesson plans. The adapted version of ASSISTments provides teachers with virtual – rather than in-person – training in use of the tool, in order to reduce program costs and better facilitate program participation for hard-to-serve areas, such as rural school districts.
The original ASSISTments program is backed by highly promising prior evidence: an independent well-conducted, state-wide RCT of ASSISTments in Maine found that the program produced a gain of 0.18 standard deviations in 7th graders’ math achievement over one school year (compared to the control group), which equates to roughly a half-year of additional learning in 7th grade. Furthermore, the gains were significantly greater for students with low prior math achievement (an effect size of 0.29). A replication RCT, co-funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and Arnold Ventures, is currently underway in North Carolina.
The EIR grant is funding a large-scale RCT to test the effectiveness of ASSISTments on 7th grade students’ math learning, using a lower-cost virtual teacher training model, in predominantly rural areas in several states across the country. Building on the sizable government investment, the grant from Arnold Ventures will support the extension of the study’s follow-up for an additional school year – through the end of 8th grade – to determine whether any short-term impacts on math achievement endure as students proceed through middle school. The study will use the states’ standardized tests to measure math achievement outcomes in 7th and 8th grades.
The study’s pre-specified analysis plan is linked here.