The study was conducted in one school district in central Pennsylvania
In five out of ten schools within a single school district, fifth-grade teachers were randomly assigned to use CompassLearning’s Odyssey Language Arts or Odyssey Math in their
classrooms. Random assignment of the thirteen study teachers occurred after students were assigned to classrooms by their principals. The students in the Odyssey Language Arts
classrooms served as the control group to the students using Odyssey Math (the intervention of interest for this WWC review). Two classrooms of students from one school were
removed from the analysis sample because the school was a magnet school that had different demographic composition from the other schools. The final analysis sample, after
excluding children with missing data, included 4 schools with 7 treatment classrooms (125 students) and 4 comparison classrooms (82 students). The author presented third-grade
Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) scores to establish baseline equivalence. Fourth-grade students did not take the PSSA in 2005, so third grade was the most
recent year available. Post-attrition treatment and control groups had small differences on baseline test scores that were not statistically significant, but that did require the author
control the baseline pretest (according to the Elementary Math protocol). Because the differential attrition rates between the treatment and comparison groups at the classroom
level were greater than 5%, but the author provided the appropriate demonstration of equivalence and a control for the pretest, the WWC rated this study as meeting evidence
standards with reservations. Approximately 7 percent of the students in the analysis sample were non-white, 63 percent of the students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch,
and 14 percent of the students had an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An additional school was also presented in the author’s analysis but is not included in this report
because teachers in that school were not randomly assigned to use either the Language Arts or Math software and could have used both.
The intervention condition consisted of using Odyssey Math during the 2005–06 school year in addition to the usual mathematics curriculum, Houghton Mifflin. Teachers were
asked to use the software a minimum of 90 minutes per week (the developer-recommended minimum), but usage levels varied across classrooms, at least in part because
of access to technology. In two of the schools, students could only access the software during their weekly assigned time in the computer labs. In the other two schools,
students had greater access to the software, as it was available during their weekly computer labs, in their classrooms via wireless laptops, and even at home. Students in
the Odyssey Math condition could use the Odyssey software for any subject except Language Arts. Some of the students (from two of the schools) had access to the Odyssey
software in the 4th grade—the year before the study began.
The students in the control condition used only the district’s Houghton Mifflin curriculum for mathematics. These students used the Odyssey software for Language Arts and
possibly for other subjects (other than Mathematics). Some of the students (from two of the schools) had access to the Odyssey software in the 4th grade—the year before
the study began.
Math achievement was measured using the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA), which is the standardized assessment used for state accountability. For a more detailed description of this outcome measure, see Appendix A2.
Support for implementation
It is not clear how much training the teachers in this study received. However, the district had substantial funds to purchase professional development from CompassLearning for teachers in two of the schools during the 2004–05 school year through an Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. During the 2005–06 school year, teachers who used Odyssey during the previous (2004–05) school year trained teachers using it for the first time in 2005–06.