Research on EL

Mathematica Policy Research
Evaluation of Expeditionary Learning Middle Schools, 2013
Report Summary (PDF format)
Full Report (PDF format)

Mathematica Policy Research found that Expeditionary Learning middle school students perform better in reading and math than their counterparts in other public schools. The study team examined student performance on the existing state reading and math assessments up to three years after students enrolled in five Expeditionary Learning middle schools. In reading, Expeditionary Learning students experience positive impacts that are approximately equal in magnitude to an extra five months of learning growth after two years or an extra seven months of learning growth after three years. In math, Expeditionary Learning students experience positive impacts equal to about an extra three months of learning growth after two years or ten months of extra learning growth after three years.

UMass Donahue Institute
Impact of the Expeditionary Learning Model on Student Performance in Rochester, NY, 2011
Full Report (PDF format)

A 2011 study of Expeditionary Learning schools in Rochester, NY compared students from Expeditionary Learning elementary and middle schools to their peers in the city’s non-Expeditionary Learning schools over two years. Researchers found that Expeditionary Learning schools provided significant achievement advantages for elementary students in English language arts and math and for middle school students in English language arts. 

UMass Donahue Institute
Expeditionary Learning: Impact on Achievement Gaps, 2011
Full Report (PDF format)

In 2011, researchers examined the progress made by Expeditionary Learning schools in New York City and Rochester, NY between 2006 and 2010 in closing achievement gaps. Their analysis found that Expeditionary Learning schools closed gaps in English language arts for African-American, Hispanic, and low-income students and English language learners in both cities. 

National Clearinghouse for Comprehensive School Reform
Putting the Pieces Together: Lessons from Comprehensive School Reform Research, 2004
Full Report (PDF format)

“Putting the Pieces Together” is framed by the 11 components of comprehensive school reform that are contained in the federal law and explicated first in the Rowan, et al chapter. These 11 elements describe the characteristics that must be present to have an effective CSR program. They range from a reliance on the need for a research basis for student learning and support by school constituents to extensive staff development and clear evaluation of impact. This book reviews research to date and points to the need for future research to disribute scientific evaluation of gains made by comprehensive school reform models.

Center for Research on the Education of Students at Risk (CRESPAR)
Comprehensive School Reform and Student Achievement: a Meta-Analysis, 2002
Full Report (PDF format)

In “Comprehensive School Reform and Student Achievement: A Meta-Analysis,” researchers from the University of Wisconsin, John Hopkins University, and the University of North Carolina looked at twenty-nine Comprehensive School Reform models including Expeditionary Learning. The study looked at the research base, design characteristics, and student achievement results for each of the models. The report’s conclusions were, among others, that “the overall effects of CSR are statistically significant, meaningful, and appear to be greater than the effects of other interventions that have been designed to serve similar purposes and student and school populations,” (p.34) and that model effects were strongest for schools in their fifth year of implementation. The report characterized Expeditionary Learning’s research base as showing “highly promising evidence of effectiveness.” Only three of the twenty-nine other CRS models received higher ratings.

National Staff Development Council (NSDC)
What Works: Results-Based Staff Development, 2002 and 1999
Full 1999 report (online)

A series of NSCD reports entitled “What Works: Results-Based Staff Development” have featured Expeditionary Learning as a leading professional development organization. The 2002 report on high school professional development mentions EL’s “heavy emphasis on teacher content development and the rigorous expectation of adult learning and collaboration for all teachers.” The 1999 middle school report concluded that EL was the only program of 26 studied to meet all 27 standards for high quality professional development.

Center for Research in Educational Policy
Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning Evaluation Report, 2002
Full Report (PDF format)

This study of the Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning (RMSEL) in Denver compared teacher practice and the school’s student achievement data to those of the four Denver-area districts from which the student population is drawn. In comparison to a group of schools with similar demographics, teachers at RMSEL used significantly more coaching and project-based learning and significantly less direct instruction and independent seatwork. The study found that RMSEL students consistently outscored the weighted average of students from its four feeder districts across all grade levels for each year of the five-year study period on the Colorado State Assessment Program. RMSEL students scored on average 11.9 percentage points higher in reading than those of the comparison group.

American Youth Policy Forum
Finding Common Ground: Service Learning and Educational Reform, 2001
Full Report (PDF format)

Finding common ground between service learning and comprehensive school reform was the theme of the American Youth Policy Forum’s (AYPF) survey of twenty-eight leading school reform models. The AYPF gave Expeditionary Learning a five-star rating for being “highly compatible” in linking community service to academics and building “an ethos or characteristic spirit and belief of service to others.”

Center for Research in Educational Policy and the University of Memphis
Fourth-Year Achievement Results on the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System for Restructuring Schools in Memphis, 2000
Full Report (PDF format)

This study evaluated student achievement gains that have resulted since the 1995 implementation of school reform designs, including Expeditionary Learning, in the Memphis City Schools. In general, the findings indicated that those schools implementing reform designs such as Expeditionary Learning have demonstrated noticeable gains in academic achievement since the adoption of these designs.

RAND Corporation
Implementation and Performance in New American Schools: Three Years into Scale-up, 2000
Full Report (PDF format)

This study evaluated the implementation and performance trends of 104 New American Schools (NAS), including 16 Expeditionary Learning schools, nationwide. The report suggests that while overall performance results were mixed due to the wide variety of designs and cities included in the evaluation, the cities including Expeditionary Learning schools demonstrated promising results, considering the relatively short period of time the schools had been implementing the design.

Polly Ulichny, Ed.D., Brown University
Academic Achievement in Two Expeditionary Learning/Outward Bound Demonstration Schools, 2000
Full Report (PDF format)

Polly Ulichny, Ed.D., an independent researcher at Brown University, studied two New England Expeditionary Learning schools. King Middle School in Portland, Maine serves 700 primarily low-income students, 22 percent of whom are English Language Learners. Before the implementation of the Expeditionary Learning design, King scored lower than its district and state on the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA). In 1998-1999, however, King students outscored the state average in six of seven disciplines and scored the same as the state average in the seventh area. The Rafael Hernandez School is a K-8 two-way Spanish bilingual school in Boston. When Massachusetts introduced the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, a standards-based criterion-referenced test, in 1998, Hernandez performed better than a district school with a demographically similar population. Ulichney concludes: “Expeditionary Learning implementation appears to be providing a strong academic curriculum that allows students from typically disadvantaged backgrounds to thrive.”

American Institutes for Research
An Educators’ Guide to Schoolwide Reform, 1999
No PDF available

The American Institute for Research’s 1999 report evaluated the effectiveness of 24 models for comprehensive school reform including EL. The report concluded that “Expeditionary Learning has already amassed a promising research base on student achievement” and that the professional development provided by EL was a particular strength of the design.

RAND Corporation
Lessons from New American Schools’ Scale-up Phase, 1998
Full Report (online page of PDF files)

The RAND Corporation prepared this study for New American Schools (NAS) assessing the ability of each of the design teams to implement its design from 1995 to 1997. The report, based on case studies of 33 schools in seven different districts, found that Expeditionary Learning was one of two designs that “show significantly higher levels of implementation than the other teams.” Expeditionary Learning was successfully implemented in five out of six schools, the second highest rate of successful implementation among the seven designs studied, and Expeditionary Learning was one of only two designs with schools that had reached an exemplary level of implementation.

Center for Research in Educational Policy and the University of Memphis
Evaluation of Implementation of Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound at Middle College High School, Springdale Elementary School, and Macon Elementary School, 1997
Full Report (PDF format)

In November, 1997 the Center for Research in Educational Policy at the University of Memphis published an evaluation for the Memphis City Schools of the implementation of New American School designs in 34 Memphis schools. Three Expeditionary Learning schools were included in the study: Middle College High School, Springdale Elementary School, and Macon Elementary School. These evaluations represent a snapshot of the progress that schools had made toward the end of their second year of implementation.

Academy for Educational Development
Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound Project, 1995
Full Report (PDF Format)

The Academy for Educational Development (AED) in 1995 found that nine of the ten original demonstration site EL schools showed significant improvement in student achievement on the standardized tests mandated by their districts. Teachers reported that their classroom practices changed markedly, including collaborating with other teachers, systematically addressing content and skill learning in designing expeditions, and developing clear criteria for assessing student work. The report found that students produced high quality work, often higher than they had ever attained in the past. AED also found a strong level of student engagement.

University of Colorado School of Education
An Assessment of Outward Bound USA’s Urban/Education Initiative, 1994
Full Report (PDF)

This study investigates the effects of Outward Bound’s Urban Education Initiative, the early work of Expeditionary learning Outward Bound, on schools’ students, staff, programs, partnerships, and practices. According to the report, early Expeditionary Learning implementation seemed to have noticeable effects on a variety of areas within schools.