QuickSmart Numeracy is a 30-week maths tutoring programme from Australia that uses teaching assistants as tutors. Its goal is to increase basic maths fact automaticity/fluency in pupils in Year 4 and Year 8 who perform in the bottom third of their national cohort as measured on standardised testing, the premise being that increased maths fluency allows pupils to devote their concentration to maths concepts instead of fact recall. Researchers from the Teachers and Teaching Research Centre in the School of Education at the University of Newcastle, Australia, recently examined the effects of the programme on pupil achievement in a randomised controlled trial.
Subjects were 288 Year 4 and Year 8 pupils from 70 classrooms in 23 Sydney Catholic Schools in New South Wales who scored below the 30th percentile on national standardised testing. Baseline testing was done in March 2017 using the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) Progressive Achievement Test – Mathematics (PAT-M), with post-testing in May 2018, six months after the intervention ended in December 2017. There were no significant differences between the experimental and control groups at pre-test. Randomisation among pupils who qualified for tutoring was done in each class, with all pupils attending regular maths classes and pairs of experimental pupils being pulled from other classes to also receive half-an-hour of QuickSmart tutoring three times a week for 30 weeks.
Results showed a non-significant difference (+0.08) favouring
the experimental group in Year 4, and an effect size of +0.01 (n.s.) for Year
8. Authors noted that not all of the pupils received the targeted hours of
tutoring due to recruitment and testing processes.
Previous studies have revealed gender differences in attitudes towards information technology (IT) literacy, with boys generally considering their IT literacy to be higher than that of girls. A new meta-analysis, published in Educational Research Review, tests whether the same gender differences can be seen in pupils’ actual performance on IT literacy tasks as measured by performance-based assessments.
In total, 46 effect sizes were extracted from 23 studies
using a random-effects model. The main findings suggest that:
Girls perform better than boys on performance-based
IT literacy assessments (ES= +0.13).
Gender differences in favour of girls are larger
in primary schools (ES= +0.20) than in secondary schools (ES= +0.11).
The overall effect size is robust across several
Overall, the gender differences in IT literacy
are significant but small.
As these findings seem to contrast those obtained from
previous meta-analyses that were based on self-reported IT literacy, researchers
Fazilat Siddiq and Ronny Scherer conclude that the IT gender gap may not be as
severe as it had been claimed to be.
Source: Is there a gender gap? A meta-analysis of the gender differences in students’ ICT literacy (June 2019), Educational Research Review, Volume 27
Attending career talks with people in employment may change the attitudes of Key Stage 4 pupils regarding their education, according to new research published by the UK charity, Education and Employers.
Year 11 pupils in five schools took part in the trial and
were randomly assigned at class level into an intervention group (n=307) and a
control group (n=347). Pupils in the intervention group received three extra
career talks by employee volunteers on top of usual career activities organised
by their schools. These talks took place either during tutor group time or
private study time rather than during class.
The results of the study indicated that pupils who attended the career talks reported feeling more confident in their own abilities, feeling more positive about school, and having greater faith in their ability to fulfill their career aspirations. It also seemed to provide the incentive for increased study time. Pupils in the intervention group reported, on average, a 9% higher increase in the amount of time spent each week on individual study for GCSE exams than those in the control group.
The intervention programme also had a small positive effect on achievement, with pupils slightly more likely to exceed predicted GCSE grades relative to the control group. Lower achievers and less-engaged learners responded best to the career talks, with 74% reporting that they felt more motivated as a result of the talks. These pupils also exceeded their predicted GCSE grades compared with the control group (+0.14 of a grade effect size for English, +0.05 for maths, and +0.05 for science).
Source: Motivated to achieve: How encounters with the world of work can change attitudes and improve academic attainment (June 2019), Education and Employers Research
The Better Schools for All? report, published by the Nuffield Foundation, examines the role that schools play in pupils’ education and suggests that the school reforms in the UK in the past two decades have failed to bridge the gap in pupil achievement.
Researchers from University College London and the National
Institute of Economic and Social Research looked at data from around 3,000
secondary schools in England between 2003 and 2016 and compared pupil outcomes
and teachers’ experiences with those of employees elsewhere.
They found that:
Attending a “good” secondary school adds only a
small amount more value than attending a “bad” secondary school. Overall,
schools were found to contribute around 10% of variance in pupil achievement.
State schools are better at managing staff than
private schools. Using Workplace Employment Relations Survey data, the study
shows that state schools were more likely to have rigorous hiring practices and
employee participation programmes than private schools, and the link between
human resource management and effective and high-performing schools was only
apparent in the state sector.
Performance-related pay and performance
monitoring, which were found to improve workplace performance elsewhere, were
ineffective for teachers.
Schools with more middle leaders tended to be
rated more highly by Ofsted in terms of leadership and management. However, in
schools which formed part of a multi-academy trust, no significant relationship
Source: Better schools for all? (June 2019), Nuffield Foundation
A new evaluation conducted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies
considers the overall impacts on children’s health of the Sure Start programme
as a whole between its inception in 1999 and its peak in the late 2000s. Sure
Start is an early intervention programme targeted at parents and children under
the age of four living in the most disadvantaged areas. Sure Start projects
deliver a wide variety of services, which are designed to support children’s
learning skills, health and well-being, and social and emotional development.
They include preschool education; medical, dental, and mental health care;
nutrition services; and efforts to help parents encourage their child’s
The study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, followed children who had access to Sure Start right through to the end of primary school, and found that Sure Start had major health benefits for children living in disadvantaged areas. The main findings of the study include:
Sure Start reduced hospitalisations among
children by the time they finished primary school, and these effects built over
age 11, greater Sure Start coverage (one more centre per thousand children ages
0–4) prevented around 5,500 hospitalisations per year (18% of the pre-Sure
Sure Start benefited children living in
disadvantaged areas most. While the probability of any hospitalisation fell by 11% at age 10
and 19% at age 11 for children in the poorest 30% of areas; those in more
affluent areas saw smaller benefits, and those in the richest 30% of areas saw
practically no impact at all.
At every age in primary school, Sure Start
reduced hospital admissions for injuries. At younger ages, injury-related
hospitalisations fell by around 17% of their pre-Sure Start (1998) baseline; at
ages 10 and 11 they fell by 30%.
The authors suggest that a reason greater benefits were seen
in the poorest neighbourhoods could be because disadvantaged children were more
able to benefit from Sure Start as the types of services the programme offered
in poorer areas were more helpful, or because children in disadvantaged areas were
more likely to attend a centre.
In 2012 the Department for Education published a report on the impact of Sure Start Local Programmes (SSLPs) on seven-year-olds and their families, which found no impact on children’s outcomes.
health effects of Sure Start (June 2019), The
Institute for Fiscal Studies
Despite the achievement gap that has historically existed
between pupils from different racial backgrounds and poverty levels, at-risk
pupils in some California school districts are outperforming pupils of similar
backgrounds in other districts. Why? What are these districts doing to make
their pupils so successful?
Anne Podolsky and colleagues at the Learning Policy Institute recently released a report first identifying the 156 California school districts performing better than expected, referred to as “positive outliers”, and then compared their characteristics to other districts in the state who have similar populations but are not performing as well.
Results show that schools in the successful districts were
comprised of more experienced, well-qualified teachers than the less successful
districts. After controlling for pupil social and economic status (SES) and
district characteristics, teacher qualification emerged as the primary variable
affecting achievement for all pupils, as measured by California’s English and
maths assessments. In addition, years’ experience in a district was positively
associated with achievement for African-American and Hispanic pupils.
The report notes that in the 2017–18 school year, California
authorised more than 12,000 substandard permits and credentials, more than half
of the entering workforce that year, many of whom were disproportionately
assigned to schools serving the largest percentages of pupils of colour or from
low SES backgrounds. The findings highlight how the state’s shortage of
qualified teachers is negatively impacting pupil achievement.
California’s positive outliers: Districts beating the odds (May 2019), Learning Policy Institute