Usage of CommonLit Linked to Greater Student Gains

A teacher and students sitting at a table working on CommonLit, smiling and gesturing.

We hired an external research team to measure CommonLit’s effectiveness. We are thrilled to share the story of our impact.

CommonLit’s nonprofit mission is to build the best reading program — one proven to help students learn — and to make it completely free for teachers and students online.

This mission has grounded our work since the earliest days of CommonLit. With so much noise in the education market, we aimed to put research to practice and build something that schools and districts could stand behind.

For the past two years, as thousands of teachers were discovering our online resources, we were asking ourselves tough questions about whether our resources are making a difference for students. Specifically, we wanted to know:

  • Do students who use CommonLit more frequently perform better on CommonLit’s grade-level reading assignments?
  • Do students who use CommonLit perform better on state standardized English Language Arts (ELA) Assessments?
  • Do students in low-income (Title I) schools experience greater gains on CommonLit’s assignments?
  • Do students in Special Education classes experience greater gains on CommonLit’s assignments?

To answer these questions, we partnered with a third-party evaluator. First, they looked at our own dataset. Then, they matched this data to schools’ scores on English Language Arts state assessments. Finally, they prepared a report summarizing their findings. The whole analysis includes two years of data from over one million students. The following is a summary of the four main findings from the CommonLit Evidence of Effectiveness Report:

Finding 1: Students who complete more CommonLit assignments experience greater gains in reading performance.

A chart showing the correlation between number of CommonLit assignments completed and performance gains.
School Year Gains in Reading Performance by Number of Completed CommonLit Digital Assignments (2017–2018)

This chart demonstrates that students who use CommonLit with more regularity during the school year tend to do better on CommonLit’s rigorous standards-aligned assignments that accompany every reading passage. These results control for students getting assigned materials at their grade level.

Finding 2: Increased CommonLit usage is associated with more students at proficient or mastery level on a state assessment.

A chart showing the correlation between number of CommonLit assignments completed and proficiency/mastery levels.
Percentage of students at proficient of mastery level on the Florida State Assessment as a function of CommonLit usage (2017–2018)

Next, the research team compared CommonLit’s dataset to publicly available data showing how schools performed on the end-of-year state English Language Arts assessment in Florida, a high-usage CommonLit state. This graph shows that schools in which 10% or more of the student body completed 10 or more CommonLit assignments tended to have a 2.5% increase in the proportion of students at the school scoring at a 4 or 5 on the state assessment. Schools in which 20% or more of the student body completed 10 or more CommonLit assignments tended to have a 3.5% increase. The trend line is clear.

Finding 3: Students at Title I schools experience greater gains on CommonLit.

A chart showing gain scores for Title 1 and non-Title 1 schools.
Gain scores by Title 1 Status as a function of CommonLit usage (2017–2018)

Because CommonLit’s mission is to help students in low-income schools, we were interested in learning whether our tools were having a special effect in the communities we want to serve. This graph shows that students using CommonLit at Title I schools experienced greater gains in reading performance compared to non-Title I peers. This finding was particularly exciting for our product team, who has worked hard to learn about the specific challenges that high-poverty and rural schools face in terms of adopting education technology.

Finding 4: Students in Special Education Classes Have Greater Gains on CommonLit

As AdHoc Analytics continued to analyze CommonLit’s impact, we specifically wanted to focus on students in Special Education classes. CommonLit is committed to supporting all learners. We have built our “Read Aloud” tool, translation in 25+ languages, scaffolded comprehension questions in “Guided Reading Mode”, and digital annotations to ensure that teachers can support their students — no matter what level they are on.

A chart showing gain scores for Special Education and General Education students.
Students in Special Education classes gains on CommonLit assignments in comparison to their General Education peers.

We found that more students in Special Education classes on CommonLit experienced gains in their performance than their General Education peers. Just over 80 percent (80.4%) of these students increased their scores during the year, compared to 58 percent (58.9%) of General Education students. Also, students in Special Education classes improved their CommonLit assignment scores by an average of 17.4 percentage points while their peers in General Education classes improved their assignment scores by 4.3 percentage points.

On the Horizon

In short, CommonLit gives teachers high-quality, accessible, instructional materials rooted in best practices — a model that is now supported by a comprehensive effectiveness report of data from over one million students using CommonLit during 2017 and 2018.

Moving forward, we will be working closely with dozens of schools across the nation to learn more about the impact of the new CommonLit 360 Curriculum, and the aligned professional development and assessments. We are observing classrooms, meeting with stakeholders, and collecting feedback from teachers, students, and administrators. Our goal? To develop a package that includes all of the essential tools — quality curriculum, coaching, and assessments — that a school needs in order to implement a world class and highly effective English Language Arts program.

Stay tuned. We’ve only just gotten started.

Access the full Evidence of Effectiveness report here. Ad Hoc Analytics LLC is the third party reviewer that conducted this analysis.