Report presents latest research on Read 180 programme

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has updated its Intervention Report on READ 180, a programme designed for struggling readers who are reading two or more years below grade level.

The WWC identified nine studies of READ 180 that fell within the scope of the WWC’s Adolescent Literacy topic area and met WWC research standards. Three studies met WWC standards without reservations, and six studies met WWC standards with reservations (according to the WWC, studies receiving this rating provide a lower degree of confidence that an observed effect was caused by the intervention). Together, these studies included 8,755 teenage readers in more than 66 schools in 15 school districts and 10 states.

After examining the research, the WWC concluded that READ 180 has positive effects on comprehension and general literacy achievement, potentially positive effects on reading fluency, but no discernible effects on alphabetics.

Source: READ 180® Adolescent Literacy What Works Clearinghouse Intervention Report:  A summary of findings from a systematic review of the evidence (2016), Institute of Education Sciences

Teaching secondary students to write effectively

The Institute of Education Sciences has released a new What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) Educator’s Practice Guide. The guide, Teaching Secondary Students to Write Effectively, provides evidence-based recommendations for improving the writing skills of middle and secondary school students.

The WWC and a panel chaired by Steve Graham at Arizona State University synthesised existing research on the topic and combined it with insight from the panel to identify the following recommendations, which include a rating of the strength of the research evidence supporting each recommendation:

  • Explicitly teach appropriate writing strategies using a Model-Practice-Reflect instructional cycle (strong evidence)
  • Integrate writing and reading to emphasise key writing features (moderate evidence)
  • Use assessments of student writing to inform instruction and feedback (minimal evidence)

To help teachers put the recommendations into practice, the guide describes over 30 specific strategies for the classroom, including sample writing prompts, activities that incorporate both writing and reading, and ways to use formative assessment to inform writing instruction.

Source: Teaching secondary students to write effectively (2016), Institute of Education Sciences

Examining the impact of content-intensive teacher professional development

A new evaluation report by Michael S Garet and colleagues, published by the US Institute of Education Sciences, examines the impact of providing elementary (primary) school teachers with content-focused maths continuing professional development (CPD) on their knowledge, teaching, and students’ achievement.

The study’s CPD had three components totalling 93 hours. The core of the CPD was Intel Math, an 80-hour workshop delivered in the summer of 2013 that focused on deepening teachers’ knowledge of grades K–8 mathematics (Years 1 to 9). Two additional CPD components totalling 13 hours were delivered during the 2013–14 school year.

The study’s sample included grade 4 (Year 5) teachers from 94 schools in six US school districts and five states that were randomly assigned within schools to either a treatment group that received the study CPD or a control group that did not receive the study CPD.
Key findings were as follows:

  • The CPD had a positive impact on teacher knowledge. On average, treatment teachers’ maths knowledge scores on a study-administered maths assessment were 21 percentile points higher than control teachers’ scores in spring 2014, after the CPD was completed.
  • The CPD had a positive impact on some aspects of teaching practice, particularly Richness of Mathematics, which emphasises the conceptual aspects of maths, such as the use and quality of mathematical explanations.
  • Despite the CPD’s generally positive impact on teacher outcomes, the CPD did not have a positive impact on student achievement. On average, treatment teachers’ students scored 2 percentile points lower than control teachers’ students in spring 2014 on both a study-administered maths assessment aligned with the content of the CPD and the state maths assessment. This difference was statistically significant for the state maths assessment but not for the study-administered assessment.

Source: Focusing on Mathematical Knowledge: The Impact of Content-Intensive Teacher Professional Development (2016), Institute of Education Sciences

The impact of pay-for-performance

A new report from Alison Wellington and colleagues, published by the Institute of Education Sciences, looks at the implementation and impacts in US schools that offered pay-for-performance as part of their 2010 Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grants. These grants, now named the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program, support performance-based compensation systems for teachers and principals in high-need schools.

An experimental study design was used to assess the impacts of pay-for-performance on educator and student outcomes. Elementary and middle schools within the evaluation districts were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. The treatment schools were to fully implement their performance-based compensation system. The control schools were to implement the same performance-based compensation system with one exception—the pay-for-performance bonus component was replaced with a one percent bonus paid to all educators regardless of performance.

For the 10 evaluation districts that completed three years of TIF implementation (between 2011 and 2014), key findings showed that pay-for-performance had small, significant positive impacts on students’ math and reading achievement. The report notes that after three years of TIF implementation, the average math score was 2 percentile points higher in schools that offered pay-for-performance bonuses than in schools that did not. The average reading score was 1 percentile point higher in schools that offered pay-for-performance bonuses than in schools that did not. This difference was equivalent to a gain of about four additional weeks of learning.

Source: Evaluation of the Teacher Incentive Fund: Implementation and Impacts of Pay-for-Performance After Three Years (2016), Institute of Education Sciences

Study examines the time it takes to become proficient in English

This study from the Institute of Education Sciences examined how long it typically takes children with English as an additional language (EALs) to become proficient in English and how this time differs by student characteristics such as gender, home language, or initial proficiency in English. The authors analysed state data for nearly 17,000 EALs who entered kindergarten (Year 1) between 2005/06 and 2011/12 in seven cohorts in Washington State in the US. Key findings included:

  • Students who entered kindergarten as EALs took a median of 3.8 years to develop the English proficiency necessary to be reclassified as former EALs.
  • EALs entering kindergarten with advanced English proficiency were more likely to be reclassified in their first eight years of school than those entering with basic proficiency or intermediate proficiency.
  • Female EALs were more likely than male EALs to be reclassified in their first eight years of school.
  • Speakers of Chinese, Vietnamese, or Russian or Ukrainian (combined) were more likely to be reclassified in their first eight years of school than speakers of Somali or Spanish.

The authors hope this information can help to identify students who may take longer to reach proficiency and therefore may need additional support. Also, they say the information can help inform assessment and accountability systems and help establish targets that take specific factors, such as English proficiency at entry to school, into account.

Source: English Learner Student Characteristics and Time To Reclassification: An Example From Washington State (2016), REL Northwest.

What works for struggling readers?

A new report from the US National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance summarises evidence from 17 studies conducted under Striving Readers, a federal grant programme that aimed to raise middle and high school pupils’ literacy levels in deprived areas. As part of the programme, each Striving Readers grantee partnered with an independent evaluator to conduct a randomised controlled trial of the reading intervention being implemented.

For the current report, all of the Striving Reader evaluations were reviewed under What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) evidence standards. Twelve studies met the standards without reservations, three studies met with reservations, and two studies did not meet the WWC evidence standards.

Based on findings from studies that met the standards with or without reservations, four of ten interventions had positive, potentially positive, or mixed effects on reading achievement. Specifically:

  • For READ 180, there was evidence of positive effects on reading achievement. Three studies found statistically significant positive effects.
  • For Xtreme Reading, there was evidence of potentially positive effects on reading achievement. One study found statistically significant positive effects and one study found no effects.
  • For Learning Strategies Curriculum, there was evidence of potentially positive effects on reading achievement. There was a single study of the intervention, and it found statistically significant positive effects.
  • For Voyager Passport Reading Journeys, there were mixed effects on reading achievement. One study found statistically significant positive effects and two studies found no effects.

Source: Summary of Research Generated by Striving Readers on the Effectiveness of Interventions for Struggling Adolescent Readers (2015), Institute of Education Sciences.