Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has engaged RAND to carry out an ongoing study of foundation-funded schools that are employing promising approaches to personalized learning. This research is part of a public commitment the foundation has made to spread effective practices across districts and charter networks, develop innovative roles for teachers, and support implementation of college-ready standards.
For the 62 schools for which two years’ worth of student achievement data were available, this study found that students attending these schools made gains in mathematics and reading over the past two years that were significantly greater than a comparison group made up of similar students selected from comparable schools.
Achievement analyses find that there were positive effects on student mathematics and reading performance and that the lowest-performing students made substantial gains relative to their peers.
- A majority of schools had positive effects on student mathematics and reading performance over two years, echoing results from last year but with a sample nearly three times as large.
- Growth continued to accumulate in a third year in schools that started implementing personalized learning by 2012.
- Scores grew substantially relative to national averages.
- A large proportion of students with lower starting achievement levels experienced greater growth rates than peers, particularly in mathematics.
- Results were widespread, with a majority of schools having statistically positive results.
- District schools in the aggregate did not show significant positive effects, but the sample size was small.
- The findings withstand a series of rigorous sensitivity analyses.
Overall, these findings suggest that the effects of personalized learning on student achievement are promising.
Students made gains in mathematics and reading that were significantly greater than a comparison group made up of similar students selected from comparable schools. These results are consistent with the findings reported last year but with a sample nearly three times as large. The gains in both mathematics and reading at schools that have implemented personalized learning approaches were relatively large compared with gains in studies of schools with other types of interventions. A majority of the schools had statistically positive results. Importantly, although students started out mostly performing below the national averages in mathematics and reading, they generally ended with scores near or above the national averages after two years in personalized learning schools.These results suggest that the effects of personalized learning on student achievement are promising.