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

Good teachers get results

Everyone knows that a good teacher makes a difference, but establishing who the good teachers are, and what difference they make, has long been a problem. A new study by economists at Harvard University attempts to answer these questions. They analysed the school records and earnings information for 2.5 million children, and found that, when a high “value added” teacher joins a new school, results for their class improve.

Having a high value-added teacher (in the top 5%) for one year raises a child’s cumulative lifetime income by $50,000. How this information is used is clearly a matter of policy, but any system that aims to reward good performance while supporting or punishing poor performance would need to be carefully designed and tested. An interesting article about the study can be found here.

Source: The long-term impacts of teachers: teacher value-added and student outcomes in adulthood (2011), American Economic Review