RESEARCH SNAPSHOT

Study covering 150K students statewide finds high Zearn Math usage associated with improved state test scores

BY BILLY McRAE

OVERVIEW

During the 2018–19 school year, Zearn studied the impact of Zearn Math usage on Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) mathematics exam scores in Louisiana. Researchers analyzed scores for nearly 800 public elementary schools—serving over 150,000 students—and compared results between two groups of schools: those with high Zearn Math usage, and those with low/no Zearn Math usage. This analysis helped to answer three primary questions:

  1. Did LEAP scores improve more for schools with high Zearn Math usage?
  2. Did improvement vary in schools with higher proportions of Black/Latinx students and students eligible for Free- or Reduced-Price Lunch?
  3. Did higher levels of Zearn Math usage lead to higher student achievement gains?

FINDINGS

To answer the first question, our researchers first compared the increase in the percentage of treatment vs. control students who reached the "Mastery" or "Advanced" levels on the LEAP exam, which represent the highest of five possible LEAP score categories ("Unsatisfactory", "Approaching Basic", "Basic", "Mastery", and "Advanced"). The findings are illustrated in the graph below: schools with high Zearn Math usage exhibited 1.5-2.5x higher growth in students reaching mastery relative to non-Zearn schools in grades 3-5.

Change in LEAP % Mastery+ from 2017-18 to 2018-19, based on 2018-19 Zearn Math usage

When researchers broadened the dependent variable to include the proportion of students scoring Basic+ (Basic, Mastery, or Advanced), the contrast between Zearn and non-Zearn schools became even more stark. Across Grades 3-5, non-Zearn schools actually saw a reduction in the proportion of students scoring Basic, Mastery, or Advanced. Schools with high Zearn Math usage, however, had modest yet consistently positive gains in students scoring Basic or better.

Change in LEAP % Basic+ from 2017-18 to 2018-19, based on 2018-19 Zearn Math usage

In addition to measuring overall score improvement, our researchers also asked: if we focus in on schools that serve more low-income students, what was the impact of Zearn Math usage? To answer this question, researchers compared score improvements between only schools with above-average proportion of students eligible for Free- or Reduced-Price lunch. They found that gains for Zearn Math schools were even higher for this subset, outperforming non-Zearn schools by 2-4x.

Change in LEAP % Mastery+ from 2017–18 to 2018–19, based on 2018–19 Zearn Math usage (above-average FRL schools only)

Researchers also isolated schools with above-average proportions of Black students and schools with above-average proportions of Hispanic/Latinx students, to investigate whether that positive impact held for more diverse schools. For both groups of schools, students using Zearn Math with fidelity demonstrated notably stronger growth, across grade levels.

Change in LEAP % Mastery+ from 2017–18 to 2018–19, based on 2018–19 Zearn Math usage (schools with above-average proportions of Black students only)

Change in LEAP % Mastery+ from 2017–18 to 2018–19, based on 2018–19 Zearn Math usage (schools with above-average proportions of Hispanic/Latinx students only)

Digging deeper into the impact of Zearn Math usage on the proportion of students reaching basic or above, researchers analyzed the relationship between the number of Zearn Math lessons completed and the impact on student outcomes. This analysis is summarized below, with results showing the weighted-average gain in LEAP scores across grades 3-5 for schools with varying levels of Zearn Math lesson completion. Classes that had a greater number of completed Zearn lessons saw a greater share of students reach basic or above.

Average gain in % of students reaching Basic+ for school grades averaging…



LEARNINGS 

In the analysis conducted, consistent Zearn Math usage supported higher achievement gains on Louisiana statewide math assessment scores. That positive impact was consistently demonstrated across sub-samples of schools, specifically those with higher proportions of FRL students, Black students, and Hispanic/Latinx students. And achievement gains grew in line with lesson completion - more lessons correlated with more growth. The study covered 150,000 students, a majority of Louisiana's 3rd-, 4th-, and 5th-grade students—and provides strong evidence of Zearn's impact in driving results for students.

As a nonprofit on a mission to inspire generations of children to love learning math, we are encouraged by these results and grateful for the teachers who make it all possible.