Persistent poverty damages young children’s cognitive development

Persistent poverty has a greater effect on children’s cognitive development than intermittent poverty, according to the latest working paper from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) at the University of London’s Institute of Education. The study, which analyses data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, shows that children born into poverty have significantly lower cognitive development test scores at ages 3, 5, and 7, and that continually living in poverty in their early years has a cumulative negative impact on their cognitive development.

The researchers looked at whether the children were in poverty at ages 9 months, 3 years, 5 years, and 7 years and then estimated the effect of poverty on the children’s scores on cognitive tests taken at ages 3, 5, and 7, which included vocabulary, pattern construction, picture recognition, and reading. For children who had been poor at only one point since birth, it was being born into poverty that had the most detrimental effects on cognitive development, whereas recent episodes of poverty had the least impact.

Source: Persistent poverty and children’s cognitive development: Evidence from the UK Millennium Cohort Study (2012), Institute of Education University of London

Randomised controlled trial of the Teens and Toddlers programme

This report from the Department for Education presents findings of a randomised controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the impact of the Teens and Toddlers (T&T) programme, which aims to reduce teenage pregnancy by raising the aspirations and educational attainment of 13- to 17-year-old girls at most risk of leaving education early, social exclusion, and becoming pregnant.

The T&T programme, which consisted of weekly three-hour sessions over 18 to 20 weeks, combined group-based learning with work experience in a nursery. The RCT measured the impact of the programme on a specific set of outcomes while it was taking place, immediately afterwards, and one year later. Immediately after the intervention, there was no evidence of a positive impact on the three primary outcomes:

  • use of contraception;
  • expectation of teenage parenthood; and
  • general social and emotional development.

However, there was evidence of improved self-esteem and sexual-health knowledge, which were secondary outcomes. One year later, the only impact was that the teenagers were less likely to have low self-esteem.

Source: Randomised controlled trial of the ‘teens and toddlers’ programme (2012), Department for Education

Little incentive for rewarding teacher teams

In the last issue of Best Evidence in Brief, we included a PISA in Focus review on performance-based pay for teachers. This US study from the RAND Corporation also looks at performance pay, but specifically at the effects of rewarding teams of teachers. The study, which used a randomised design, included 159 teams of teachers teaching pupils in grades 6 to 8 (KS3) in nine schools. Teachers on selected teams had the opportunity to earn a bonus based on their pupil’s growth in achievement in mathematics, English language arts, science, and social studies.

The study showed that the intervention had no effect on pupil achievement, teacher practices, or teacher attitudes. Pupils taught by teacher teams who were offered incentives scored slightly better on some standardised tests, but the differences were small and not statistically significant.

Source: No evidence that incentive pay for teacher teams improves student outcomes (2012), RAND Corporation

Effective programmes for primary science

Which science programmes have been proven to help primary school pupils to succeed? To find out, the University of York’s Institute for Effective Education, Johns Hopkins University and Durham University completed a research review on the topic. The review summarises evidence on three types of programmes designed to improve the science achievement of primary school pupils: inquiry-orientated programmes without science kits, inquiry-orientated programmes with science kits, and technology programmes.

The review supported the use of inquiry-orientated programmes without science kits, such as science-reading integration approaches, but not those with kits. Limited research on technology approaches such as BrainPop also showed positive impacts. The evidence supports a view that improving outcomes in primary science depends on improving teachers’ skills in presenting lessons, engaging and motivating pupils, and integrating science and reading.

Source: Effective programmes for primary science: A best-evidence synthesis (2012), Best Evidence Encyclopedia

Sputnik in review

In his latest Education Week blog, Robert Slavin, director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education, has been discussing a thought-provoking speech by Baroness Estelle Morris, former Secretary of State for Education, at the last IEE conference. She noted that everyone involved in education wants the best for children, and that it’s appropriate to argue about values and desired outcomes.

But when we want to improve children’s learning (on whatever outcomes we’ve agreed to be important), we should look to the evidence, not to the political process. You can read a summary of the speech by Estelle Morris in the last issue of Better: Evidence-based Education and find out more about next year’s conference on the IEE website.

Source: Shouldn’t government be accountable too? (2012), Education Week (Sputnik Blog)

Citizenship education in Europe

This report from the Eurydice network summarises how policies and measures relating to citizenship education have evolved in recent years. Citizenship education has gained prominence in teaching across Europe, with 20 of the 31 countries (EU Member States, Iceland, Norway, Croatia, and Turkey) dedicating a separate compulsory subject to its teaching.

The report focusses in particular on curriculum aims and organisation; student and parent participation in schools; school culture and student participation in society; assessment and evaluation; and support for teachers and school heads.

Citizenship features on the curriculum in all countries, but the authors say that more needs to be done to improve teachers’ knowledge and skills for teaching it. In general, citizenship education is integrated into initial teacher training courses for secondary education in subjects such as history and geography, but only England and Slovakia offer training as a specialist teacher in citizenship education.

Source: Citizenship education in Europe (2012), Eurydice