Johns Hopkins University’s Daniel Shackelford has conducted the first quantitative study examining the effects of participation in an extracurricular debate club during pre-adolescence on pupils’ later academic and engagement outcomes, including entry to selective-entrance high schools.
examined a 10-year sample of 2,263 4th to 8th grade pupils (Year 5 to Year 9)
participating in Baltimore City’s Baltimore Urban Debate League (BUDL) between
the 2004 to 2013 school years, comparing their standardised maths and reading
scores, attendance, and entry to selective-entrance high schools to 81,906
peers who did not participate in BUDL. Ninety-one percent of both groups were
African American, and 96% of both groups received free and reduced-price lunch.
It is of note that these two groups were not matched at baseline: pupils who became debaters differed from controls prior to their participation in BUDL, with higher standardised test scores and attendance, so no true causal conclusion can be drawn from comparing groups. Yet among the debate pupils themselves, results showed that pre-adolescent debate participation yielded more than a 6% increase in reading scores and a 4% increase in maths scores on standardised testing. While debate inherently involves reading and might be accountable for increased reading achievement, Dr Shackelford observes that debaters were 10% more likely not to be chronically absent than non-debaters, and this increased engagement in school may have yielded the improvements in maths scores. BUDL pupils were also more likely to attend a selective high school (+0.12) or selective career tech high school (+0.01) than to attend a traditional high school.
BUDL effect: Examining academic achievement and engagement outcomes of preadolescent
Baltimore Urban Debate League participants (February 2019), Educational
Almost 60% of American pupils receive lunch through the National
School Lunch Program (NSLP), which provides free- and reduced-price lunches
(FRPL) to pupils in households who demonstrate economic disadvantage. Income
information is based on parent report of household income in the month
preceding application to the programme. Because NSLP enrolment has been
correlated with lower pupil achievement and is an indicator of how disadvantaged
a school’s population is, this classification plays an important role in how
funds are allocated to schools and how schools are classified in educational
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the US Census Bureau, the University of California at Irvine, and NORC at the University of Chicago recently examined how accurately FRPL enrolment measures actual income and educational disadvantage by comparing IRS income records with pupils’ lunch enrolment and achievement records. Specifically, researchers examined the records of all eighth grade (Year 9) pupils in a California public school district from 2008-2014 (n=14,000) and in Oregon public schools from 2004-2014 (n=363,000), examining the relationship between FRPL enrolment, IRS income records, and eighth grade English language achievement scores on the California Achievement Test and the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.
Results showed that school lunch programme enrolment explains the
relationship between economic disadvantage and pupil achievement better than
IRS-reported annual income. Compared to their non-NSLP peers, California
free-lunch pupils scored 0.40 standard deviations (SD) lower on the eighth
grade English language test, and the reduced-lunch pupils scored 0.20 lower
than those not enrolled. In Oregon, the FRPL pupils scored 0.36 SD lower than
those not enrolled. In comparison, when using IRS-reported household income to
explain English language achievement, economically disadvantaged pupils scored
approximately 0.15 SD lower than pupils appearing to be ineligible for FRPL in
one California district and 0.26 SD lower across Oregon public schools. In
other words, FRPL enrolment accounted for 16% of the variance in English
language scores, whereas IRS data only accounted for 13% of the variance. This
indicates that FRLP appears to capture aspects of disadvantage that IRS data do
Source: Is free
and reduced-price lunch a valid measure of educational disadvantage? (December
2018), Educational Researcher, Volume: 47
Field trips to the theatre provide a number of educational benefits to pupils, according to research published in Educational Researcher. Jay P Greene and colleagues found that giving pupils the opportunity to take part in a field trip to see a live theatre performance produced an increase in tolerance as well as a greater understanding of the plot and vocabulary of those plays.
Schools in Arkansas in the US were assigned by lottery to receive free tickets to attend one of five live theatre performances over a two-year period. Grade 9 (Year 10) classes from participating schools were then randomly assigned to take part in theatre field trip or to serve as a control group and not take part in the field trips. In addition, for two of the five experiments, a second treatment group was added in which pupils were randomly assigned to watch a film version of the theatre play. The average age of pupils in the treatment and control groups was 14 years old.
The impact to pupils of the theatre field trip was measured on five outcomes: tolerance, social perspective taking (the ability to understand others’ feelings and perspectives), content knowledge, theatre consumption and theatre participation. Pupils in the theatre field trip treatment groups scored higher for levels of tolerance and social perspective taking (+0.14 and 0.16 of a standard deviation higher than the control group). Pupils’ content knowledge of the plot and vocabulary in the plays was also greater (by 0.15 of a standard deviation) than pupils in the control group.
However, watching a film did not produce benefits, and as the film-viewing group also left school for a field trip, the results suggest that the educational benefits to pupils come from the experience of watching live theatre, and not simply from leaving school for a field trip. Results also indicate that theatre field trips may encourage pupils to visit the theatre more often.
Source: The play’s the thing: experimentally examining the social and cognitive effects of school field trips to live theater performances (March 2018), Educational Researcher, Vol 47, Issue 4, pp. 246 – 254
A recent meta-analysis of almost 60 years’ worth of high-quality early childhood education (ECE) studies in the US found that participating in ECE programmes significantly reduced special education placement and grade retention (pupils having to repeat a year), and lead to increased graduation rates from secondary school.
Dana Charles McCoy and colleagues examined data from studies spanning 1960-2016. All had to meet strict inclusion criteria and address ECE’s effects on special education placement, grade retention, or dropout rates, yielding 22 studies. Seven were randomised controlled studies, four were quasi-experimental, and eleven used non-randomised assignment and compared groups who were equivalent at baseline.
Results showed statistically significant effects of ECE. Compared to pupils who did not attend ECE, participants were 8.1% less likely to be placed in special education, 8.3% less likely to be held back a year and 11.4% more likely to graduate from secondary school.
Source: Impacts of early childhood education on medium- and long-term educational outcomes (November 2017), Educational Researcher Volume 46, issue 8
The transition from kindergarten to first grade (Year 1 to Year 2 in the UK) is considered to be a critical period for children’s academic and social development. Expectation about children’s early literacy learning has risen over time, but has their achievement – and how?
Jerome V D’Agostino and Emily Rodgers analysed achievement data obtained from a US database for Reading Recovery (a literacy intervention for first grade pupils) for more than 364,000 children entering first grade in the same schools. From this data they created a literacy profile for pupils at entry to the first grade over a 12-year period, beginning in the 2002–03 school year.
Their research, published in Educational Researcher, found that overall, reading for all pupils in the first grade improved measurably between 2002 and 2013. Literacy scores on entry increased over time. The effect size change in achievement gaps narrowed (-0.10) on basic skills like letter identification, but widened on advanced skills like text reading level (+0.08) over 12 years.
Source: Literacy achievement trends at entry to first grade (March 2017), Educational Researcher, Vol 46, Issue 2.
As evidence-based reform becomes increasingly important in educational policy, it is becoming essential to understand how research design might contribute to reported effect sizes in experiments evaluating educational programmes. Educational Researcher has recently published an article that examines how methodological features such as types of publication, sample sizes, and research designs affect effect sizes in experiments.
A total of 645 studies from 12 recent reviews of evaluations of reading, mathematics, and science programmes were studied. The findings suggest that effect sizes are roughly twice as large for published articles, small-scale trials, and experimenter-made measures, than for unpublished documents, large-scale studies, and independent measures, respectively. In addition, effect sizes are significantly higher in quasi-experiments than in randomised experiments.
Explanations for the effects of methodological features on effect sizes are discussed, as are implications for evidence-based policy.
Source: How Methodological Features Affect Effect Sizes in Education (2016), Educational Researcher