Closing Achievement Gaps Across Kentucky Schools: Partnership Between engage2learn and the Kentucky Department of Education Yields Promising Student Outcomes

AUSTIN, TX – engage2learn (e2L) and the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) are proud to announce and celebrate the significant strides made in improving student outcomes through their partnership, as made evident by a newly published quasi-experimental study, conducted by Learning Experience Design (LXD) Research. Quasi-experimental studies “aim to [evaluate interventions and] demonstrate causality between an intervention and an outcome [without using randomization]” (NIH). 

From 18 participating districts, 55 Equity Playbook Schools received e2L coaching for school staff & classroom teachers during the first year of the Equity Playbook Initiative (2022-2023) as the Equity Playbook Group. Using Propensity Score Matching, a process for matching groups with similar traits to compare outcomes, 240 statistically similar schools were selected to form the Comparison Group, using 2022 baseline data. A total of 313 Kentucky educators were coached in e2L best practices from Fall 2022 - Spring 2023.

Based on statistically significant math and science student outcome findings, LXD validated that this study meets ESSA Level 2 criteria for "moderate evidence" as defined by the Institute for Education Science (WWC). This study will be submitted for review to the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) which is an investment of the Institute for Education Science (IES), the research arm of the US Department of Education. WWC is “a central and trusted source of scientific evidence on education programs, products, practices, and policies” (WWC). 

As part of the multifaceted initiative, KDE partnered with e2L to create a set of professional learning competencies to help teachers grow in core instructional best practices that integrate diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) practices into the classroom. These competencies can be found in KDE's Guide to Kentucky's Equity Playbook, alongside examples of a problem of practice analysis around each of the five competencies. e2L’s role then was to coach not only teachers through implementing the DEIB competencies into classroom instruction, but also instructional coaches, school- and district-level leaders, and KDE’s state-level coaches. 

“The Equity Playbook has been a game changer for us. Since we began working with our e2L partners, we've accomplished so much, including revising our mission statement and creating documents to guide professional learning,” shared Christine Price, Ed.D, an instructional coach at South Oldham High School in Crestwood, Kentucky. “We have developed a student advisory group and are working with teachers on how to make discussion and awareness of cultural competence a part of collaborative team meetings. We also have a draft of our equity plan ready for teacher feedback and revision. Our time with our e2L partners is focused, substantive, and highly productive!”

Throughout the coaching process, participants utilized GroweLab, the all-in-one instructional coaching platform from e2L, to set individual learning goals, document all coaching activities, upload and review evidence of implementation, and monitor the impact of coaching on both adult learning and student outcomes.

School-level analyses reveal compelling evidence about the impact of e2L coaching as part of KDE’s Equity Playbook on the use of KDE-defined DEIB competencies and on student achievement. For example, when comparing Equity Playbook Schools to non-participating schools, students across schools where teachers have been receiving e2L coaching are experiencing 8% gains in math scores and 4% gains in science scores, according to the Kentucky Summative Assessment (KSA). These improvements are amplified at schools with larger percentages of highly economically disadvantaged students. 

Percentage of Students on Grade Level in Math and ScienceIn addition to improving academic outcomes, the Equity Playbook outlines goals for integrating DEIB practices into student discipline. For example, across Kentucky’s public schools, Black students receive disproportionate disciplinary action compared to their peers. In just one year, Black students in Equity Playbook schools experienced a 22% drop in disciplinary action, effectively narrowing the discipline equity gap and improving the learner experience.

KDE-LXD-Study-Proportionality-of-Black-Students-Press ReleaseAs the first state in the nation to launch a DEIB initiative of this nature, Kentucky is showing that such an approach can close achievement gaps and bring equity into the classroom. Additionally, the intentional collaboration between e2L and KDE highlights the pivotal role of instructional coaching in fostering improved student outcomes in public schools at the state level. 

As Shannon K. Buerk, CEO and Founder of engage2learn, put it: "Our partnership with KDE underscores the transformative power of ongoing, job-embedded coaching for educators. It's not just about professional development or meeting certain state requirements; it's about equipping educators with the tools and support they need to unlock every student's potential."

"The collaboration between e2L and KDE exemplifies our commitment to equity and excellence in education,” added Thomas S. Tucker, Ph.D., Deputy Commissioner and Chief Equity Officer in KDE’s Office of Teaching and Learning. “By equipping educators across the state to grow in five pillar areas – student achievement, utilization of funding and resources, disproportionality of student discipline, culture and climate, and highly effective staff and high-quality instructional resources – the data tells us that we are closing achievement gaps. We’re thrilled to see such positive trends in addressing learning loss for underserved students through instructional coaching."

As school systems are continually faced with decisions about how and where to allocate available funds, the success of the partnership between e2L and KDE makes a compelling case for investing in instructional coaching initiatives that prioritize targeted, competency-based professional development and support for educators. Learn more about the study results related to this partnership here.


About engage2learn (e2L)

engage2learn helps public education leaders upskill their talent and streamline systems to improve student outcomes and attract and retain teachers. Since 2011, our talent development system – built from extensive academic research and coaching practice – has been connecting adult growth data to improved results in districts across the nation.

For additional information on engage2learn, please visit us at and on our social channels: Twitter/X, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

About the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE)

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) is located in Frankfort, Kentucky. United We Learn is our shared vision for the future of public education in Kentucky. This vision builds around three big ideas: creating a more vibrant experience for every student, encouraging innovation in our schools – especially when it comes to assessment, and creating a bold new future for Kentucky’s schools through collaboration with our communities. ​​​These three big ideas – students, innovation and community – form the vision for the future of public education in Kentucky. 

Because vibrant learning experiences are a priority, KDE brought stakeholders together to define them as follows: In partnership with families and communities, students are agents of their own learning, engaged in relevant, authentic and joyful learning opportunities. Vibrant learning honors students' cultural wealth, gifts and interests. Vibrant learning culminates in the application of knowledge and skills demonstrated through personalized products.​​

About Learning Experience Design (LXD) Research

LXD Research is an independent evaluation, research, and consulting division within Charles River Media, Inc focusing on educational technology. We design rigorous research studies, multifaceted data analytic reporting, and dynamic content to disseminate insights. Visit