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Summaries of RCT Grants

RCT of ASSISTments, a web-based homework support tool for 7th grade aimed at increasing student math achievement

This project will expand and extend a large-scale randomized controlled trial (RCT), launched through a $3.3 million grant from IES, to evaluate ASSISTments – an online homework support tool for 7th graders designed to improve math achievement.

Grant Recipient: WestEd, a nonprofit research, development, and service agency

Term: 2019 –2024

Principal Investigators: Mingyu Feng, Ph.D., WestEd

Neil Heffernan, Ph.D., Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Funding: $498,997 from LJAF in addition to $3.3 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES)

Summary: This project will expand and extend a large-scale randomized controlled trial (RCT), launched through a $3.3 million grant from IES, to evaluate ASSISTments – an online homework support tool for 7th graders designed to improve math achievement. ASSISTments supports students with math homework through real-time, individualized feedback, and produces real-time reports for teachers on student performance (e.g., concepts/problems that students are struggling with). Teachers then use these reports to tailor their lesson plans.

ASSISTments is backed by highly-promising prior evidence: a well-conducted, state-wide RCT of ASSISTments in Maine found that the program produced a gain of 0.18 standard deviations in math achievement (compared to the control group), which corresponds to what would be expected from 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).

Under the new RCT, the research team has (through the initial IES grant) successfully recruited a sample of 47 schools in North Carolina and delivered ASSISTments to an initial cohort of Grade 7 students in the treatment schools. The grant from Arnold Ventures supports: (i) recruitment of an additional 30 schools in North Carolina or neighboring states (e.g., Tennessee, Virginia, and South Carolina) and enrollment of a second student cohort, making this a major, multi-state RCT with greater power to detect meaningful impacts on math achievement in 7th grade (i.e., 0.16 standard deviations); and (ii) extend the study’s follow-up for an additional school year – through the end of 8th grade – to determine whether the impacts 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 pre-analysis plan is linked here.

Grants

Arnold Ventures funds projects to understand problems and identify policy solutions.

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