AIR Study Finds Persistent Graduation Advantage For Students in Deeper Learning Network High Schools

Washington, D.C. – A follow-up to an earlier study of the effects of “deeper learning” in high schools conducted by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) confirms that students who attended network schools with instruction focused on deeper learning graduate at a higher rate than their peers.

Schools focused on deeper learning aim to enable students to transfer knowledge and skills across contexts through the development of academic and problem solving skills, their ability to communicate and work with others, and their self-knowledge and ability to manage their own time and effort. Attending a school focused on deeper learning had positive effects on graduation rates regardless of gender or achievement level upon entering, according to the new study.

“The updated results extend our earlier work showing that students attending deeper learning network high schools were more likely to graduate on time than similar students at non-network schools. The difference is about eight percentage points,” said Kristina Zeiser, the study’s lead author and a senior researcher at AIR. "The positive effect was somewhat weaker for students who qualified for free or reduced-price lunch—an indicator of low-income status. However, attending a network high school still had a significant, positive effect on high school graduation for these students.”

The updated analysis, funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, focused on over 20,000 students in 27 schools in New York and California with largely diverse and underserved populations. The research team gathered graduation data from participating school districts for students who started the ninth grade between the 2007-08 and 2010-11 school years at deeper learning network schools and similarly situated non-network schools.

Using a sample that includes additional pairs of network and non-network schools, and an additional group of ninth-grade students, this study confirms the graduation rate findings of the 2014 report, “The Study of Deeper Learning: Opportunities and Outcomes.” That report also found that students in high schools focused on deeper learning scored higher on standardized tests, were more likely to enroll in four-year and selective colleges, and had higher levels of collaboration, self-efficacy and academic engagement.

The new study, Graduation Advantage Persists for Students in Deeper Learning Network High Schools, can be found at

About AIR

Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education and workforce productivity. For more information, visit


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