The education landscape has long grappled with a well-documented achievement gap, particularly in reading and math, which disproportionately affects diverse students and English Learners (ELs)1. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated these existing disparities, amplifying the challenges faced by diverse students and ELs in their academic pursuits2. As we continue to navigate the aftermath of the pandemic, it is increasingly evident that addressing and bridging this gap is not only a pressing educational concern, but also crucial for fostering an inclusive and equitable learning environment.
Fortunately, there are signs of improvement.
A recent study at a district in California revealed promising insights into the performance of certain subgroups of students, shedding light on the effectiveness of one support tool, Paper, and its Live Help (online tutoring) feature in particular. Among the noteworthy observations, ELs were a standout. In particular, ELs utilizing Live Help experienced an impressive 7 point increase in their scores compared to their non-EL peers. This finding highlights the potential of support tools to bridge educational gaps and enhance the learning experience for ELs.
Furthermore, the study underscored the positive correlation between Live Help tutoring and the academic success of non-white students, with non-white students scoring 6 points higher on their i-Ready reading benchmark compared to their white counterparts. Similarly, female students exhibited a 5 point advantage over their male counterparts when utilizing the Live Help feature. It is important to recognize that there are limitations to the study, and more research is recommended to explore the impact even further.
These promising results offer a glimpse into the potential of edtech tools, in this case Paper, in narrowing the achievement gap among diverse student groups and ELs.
As we strive to build a more inclusive and equitable educational system post-pandemic, it is imperative to broaden our exploration of edtech tools. Identifying a winning formula to comprehensively address the EL achievement gap requires a holistic approach, considering different learning styles, cultural backgrounds, and linguistic needs. The success observed with Paper's Live Help feature suggests that personalized, just-in-time assistance may be a key element to aid in supporting ELs, but we must remain open to exploring and studying a variety of tools and strategies.
In the pursuit of closing the EL achievement gap, the education community must remain committed to evidence-based practices and continuous innovation. Only through a collective effort to study, adapt, and implement effective edtech tools can we truly create an educational landscape that empowers every student to thrive. To read more about Paper’s approach and recent impact results, click here.
1 Cook, H. G., Boals, T., & Lundberg, T. (2011). Academic achievement for English learners: What can we reasonably expect? Phi Delta Kappan
2 Sugarman, J. & Lazarín, M. (2021). Equity and English Learners Post-Pandemic State Education Standard, v21 n3 p21-25 Sep 2021