Evaluating reading coach quality

A study from the RAND Corporation examines what makes for good reading coaches and coaching. The study included 113 schools from 8 districts in Florida. All used reading coaches to work with school staff to improve their reading teaching and leadership skills. The data showed no relationship between teacher and principal perceptions of coach quality and students’ reading achievement.

The researchers suggest that being an effective literacy coach may require more than content-area expertise and experience teaching children. They identify “understanding how to support adult learners” as a key area of expertise that was sometimes lacking with the coaches in the study.

Source: Reading Coach Quality: Findings from Florida Middle Schools (2012), Literacy Research and Instruction, 51(1).

Do summer schools help to widen participation in higher education?

The Sutton Trust has run summer schools aimed at Year 12 pupils from a “non-traditional HE background” since 1997. Around 10,000 young people have participated in the scheme, which aims to widen participation in higher education.

A new report from the University of Bristol looked at young people’s subsequent applications and registrations to universities. It found that the summer schools are effective in generating proportionately more UCAS applications and registrations from attendees. Underprivileged students are less likely to target the more elite universities, but the summer school helped to reduce this difference.

Source: The impact of the Sutton Trust’s summer schools on subsequent higher education participation: a report to the Sutton Trust (2011), Sutton Trust

Time to think about prevention

Should we put a fence at the top of the hill or an ambulance at the bottom? Instead, how about an ounce of prevention? That is the topic of a recent blog post from Robert Slavin, Director of the Institute for Effective Education.

On his new Education Week blog, “Sputnik: Advancing Education through Innovation and Evidence,” he writes, “There are good reasons to invest in proven educational programs at all levels and in all subjects, but when proven programs also reduce government expenditures within a few years, even the most bottom-line oriented administrator or legislator should see the need to invest in proven prevention”.

Source: Why not an ounce of prevention? (2012), Education Week (Sputnik Blog)

Are low and middle income children ready for school?

We see a lot of research into the school readiness of the poorest children, but what about those from low to middle income (LMI) families? The Resolution Foundation has published a new report that uses data from the Millennium Cohort Study to explore this, and found that LMI children are five months behind their more affluent peers on vocabulary skills when they begin school and exhibit more behaviour problems.

A number of factors influence attainment for this group, including parental education, a powerful predictor of the school readiness of children in this group. The challenge is how to break this cycle, and research-based parenting programmes are one possibility.

Source: On your marks: Measuring the school readiness of children in low-to-middle income families (2011), Resolution Foundation

Should we be trying to reduce class sizes?

Class size is a hot topic again. A predicted population increase and funding decrease, mean that pressure on class sizes is likely to grow. A research review from the Department for Education considers a number of issues around class size in England, including the impact on educational outcomes. The authors found a number of benefits from smaller classes, such as individual pupils being the focus of the teacher’s attention for longer.

However, previous research has shown that reducing class size is beneficial when classes are small, around 15 pupils. With budgets stretched, schools should consider the financial benefits of allowing classes to grow slightly. This may allow them to preserve resources for more effective ways of improving attainment, such as increasing teacher effectiveness.

Source: Class size and education in England evidence report (2011), Department for Education