Agenda, Scope, and Goals
The GED 21st Century Learning Pathways Pilots project explored how writing and math curricula — The Writer’s Express and EMPower, respectively — were implemented in adult and young adult GED classrooms. It examined the successes and challenges associated with implementing the curricula and related professional development, and provided an overview of trends in student outcomes.
The main research questions were:
How were the Writer’s Express writing curriculum and EMPower math curriculum implemented in District 79 and OACE classrooms?
How did students, teachers, and administrators respond to these curricula?
Qualitatively, did the curricula appear to improve students’ writing and math skills? Why or why not?
What were the participation and achievement trends for students being taught under these curricula?
To answer these questions, MDRC visited classrooms during the 2012-2013 school year and spoke with teachers and administrators about their experiences with the two curricula, and about the training and support they had received. MDRC also collected data on students, including demographics, participation rates, and success rates as measured by the Tests of Adult Basic Education and the Official Practice Test for the GED.
Design, Sites, and Data Sources
The GED 21st Century Learning Pathway Pilots focused on the implementation of new writing curricula (based on The Writer’s Express) and math curricula (based on EMPower) in dozens of District 79 and OACE classrooms. These curricula represented a promising revision of standard adult education and GED instruction, which had traditionally been highly idiosyncratic, based on commercial test-preparation materials, and variable from day to day, given the often transient student population. In contrast, the Learning Pathways Pilots project focused on adapting The Writer’s Express and EMPower into a sequenced set of multiweek lessons that aligned with the Common Core State Standards. When necessary, lessons were also adapted to be appropriate for an adult audience. The Writer’s Express writing curriculum was first introduced into District 79 classrooms in 2011 and into OACE classrooms in 2012. The math curriculum was mainly used in OACE classes during the 2012-2013 academic year.
MDRC’s evaluation of the implementation of these curricula spanned two years, from fall 2011 to spring 2013. During this time, MDRC conducted interviews and focus groups with instructors, administrators, and students across OACE and District 79. MDRC also observed training events designed to prepare teachers to use the curricula.
MDRC also collected administrative data from both District 79 and OACE on students’ participation in the pilot project, including their background demographics, attendance, persistence in the program, GED certification, and skill levels as measured by the Tests of Adult Basic Education.
A report on the findings from the project [GED 21st Century Learning Pathways Pilots: Final Report] was released in September 2014. Overall, the study found that The Writer’s Express and EMPower curricula were implemented widely in District 79 and OACE classrooms and that teachers, administrators, and students found value in their content. However, a number of challenges also arose in implementing the curricula, which ultimately meant students received relatively few lessons that matched the curricular models. Student outcome trends also indicated that students who learned in classrooms implementing The Writer’s Express and EMPower had similar outcomes as students who studied under different curricula.
This project ended in September 2014.