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Studies Show that ThinkCERCA Improves Students’ Literacy Skills and Test Scores

Three different efficacy studies confirm the award-winning literacy platform’s impact, including 4 years of grade-level growth for 7th-graders

(CHICAGO) July 19, 2016 — ThinkCERCA, a leading provider of personalized literacy solutions, today announced results of three efficacy studies showing that the program improves the teaching and learning of close reading and academic writing. ThinkCERCA offers literacy lessons for English language arts, math, science, and social studies for grades 4–12, applying the CERCA Framework to help students build critical thinking skills using five steps: Claims, Evidence, Reasoning, Counterarguments, and Audience.

ThinkCERCA was part of the 2014–2015 LEAP Innovations Pilot Network, whose mission was “identifying the most promising innovations, piloting these innovations with educators and students in the classroom, and evaluating the results.” Of 26 tools used in the study, ThinkCERCA led to the most student growth—four times more than the second best tool.

Students using ThinkCERCA scored 6.29 points higher on the NWEA MAP than the control group did. LEAP’s “Finding What Works” report put that improvement in perspective: “This is equivalent to closing the achievement gap by 264% for low-income students, 456% for black students, and 749% for Hispanic students.”

Additionally, ThinkCERCA was the subject of an extensive study in Chicago Public Schools. Atlantic Research Partners wrote in their report, “Literacy Instruction with ThinkCERCA,” “Overall, students in grade levels with significant use of ThinkCERCA outperformed their peers nationally on NWEA growth at different attainment levels.” The most dramatic improvements in the 2014–2015 school year were in the 5th and 7th grades, where students using ThinkCERCA showed 3 and 4 years of grade-level growth, respectively.  

In a recent Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Literacy Courseware Challenge Evaluation conducted by SRI Education, large majorities of teachers said that ThinkCERCA led them to give more writing assignments, provided students with more immediate feedback than otherwise would have been possible, and allowed them to differentiate assignments and spend more time supporting the needs of individual students. Two-thirds of teachers reported that they would “definitely” recommend ThinkCERCA to another teacher.

Two-thirds of teachers who participated in the study also said that “their students’ writing skills improved, they were more engaged as writers, and gained more confidence as writers resulting from use of the product.” More than three-quarters of teachers reported that students’ reading skills improved as a result of using ThinkCERCA.

“These three efficacy studies are powerful third-party validation of ThinkCERCA,” said Eileen Murphy Buckley, the CEO and founder of ThinkCERCA. “The data shows that, in a variety of district settings, teachers found that ThinkCERCA dramatically improved the reading and writing skills of students of different ages and abilities. Our systems-level solution now gives superintendents the ability to improve instruction in these skills on a very large scale.”

The ThinkCERCA lesson library, which is accessible from any device with an Internet connection, features a curated array of applied reading and writing lessons, independent reading lessons, direct instruction lessons, passages, and automated and constructed response assessments. Its lessons include authentic informational and literary texts from real-world sources and support 10 different levels of readiness to meet the needs of diverse learners.

Close reading is activated in instructional settings through discipline-specific highlighting and summarizing practice, as well as in-text vocabulary and audio support. Writing practice is supported by ThinkCERCA’s scaffolded, interactive Argument Builder tool, rigorous writing prompts, and standards-aligned sentence frames.

About ThinkCERCA
ThinkCERCA’s personalized literacy platform helps teachers grow students’ critical reading and writing powers. With students and teachers using its platform in all 50 states and 130 countries, the company has partnered with prominent leaders in education, including Follett Corporation, and has been featured by The Atlantic and EdSurge. A 2016 SIAA CODiE Awards finalist in the Best Learning Capacity-Building Solution and Best Reading/English/Language Arts Instructional Solution categories, ThinkCERCA has also been named one of the best tools in ed tech by Common Sense’s Graphite. In July 2013, ThinkCERCA was the recipient of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Literacy Courseware Challenge grant, and in December 2012, graduated from the inaugural class of Impact Engine’s social impact accelerator. To learn more, please visit

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Jacob Hanson
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Teaching & Learning