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STUDY OF DEEPER LEARNING: Students Attending Deeper Learning Schools Have Better Educational Outcomes than Their Peers, New AIR Report Finds

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Students who attend high schools that explicitly focus on “deeper learning” experience improved educational outcomes, including higher test scores and better graduation rates, than their peers.

Students who attend high schools that explicitly focus on “deeper learning” experience improved educational outcomes, including higher test scores and better graduation rates, than their peers, according to a new report from the American Institutes for Research. The report, Study of Deeper Learning: Opportunities and Outcomes, also finds that students who attend these schools were more likely to enroll in four-year and selective institutions after graduating from high school.

“[These findings] demonstrate that it is possible for schools to implement approaches that foster positive student outcomes across a variety of measures,” the report notes. “We observed that attending a network school had positive effects on cognitive competencies as well as interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, high school graduation rates, and rates of enrollment in four-year institutions and selective institutions. Furthermore, our results indicate that network schools are able to achieve these outcomes both for students who enter with lower achievement and for students who enter with higher achievement.”

As defined in the report, deeper learning is both a set of competencies (mastery of core academic content; critical thinking and complex problem-solving skills; communication skills; collaboration skills; an understanding of how to learn; and academic mindsets) for students and a way of learning that promotes these competencies. The report, which was funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, focuses on students attending high schools with a “mature and at least moderately well implemented approach to promoting deeper learning.” Specifically, it focuses on a set of high schools associated with ten established networks from across the country that embrace the goals of deeper learning.1

According to the report, the graduation rate of students attending these schools was likely to be about 9 percentage points higher than that of similar students who attended other schools. Students in the network schools also posted higher scores on the PISA-Based Test for Schools2 as well as on state English language arts and mathematics tests.

The report is the final in a series of three AIR reports on deeper learning. The first, The Shape of Deeper Learning: Strategies, Structures, and Cultures in Deeper Learning Network High Schools, describes how adults in the various deeper learning network schools help students develop deeper learning skills. The second, Providing Opportunities for Deeper Learning, finds that students in deeper learning network schools, including traditionally underserved subgroups of students, have more opportunities to engage in deeper learning than they would have otherwise.

All three reports in the series are available at http://www.air.org/resource/deeper-learning.

Additional information on deeper learning and the network of schools featured in the report are available at http://deeperlearning4all.org.


1 The ten networks of schools in the study are Asia Society, Big Picture Learning, ConnectEd, EdVisions Schools, Envision Schools, Expeditionary Learning, High Tech High, Internationals Network for Public Schools, New Tech Network, and New Visions for Public Schools.

2 The PISA-Based Test for Schools is a test given by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development that assesses core content knowledge and complex problem-solving skills.

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