Academic interventions for low-SES pupils

A systematic review and meta-analysis published in Review of Education Research looks at effective academic interventions for pupils with low socio-economic status (SES).

Jens Dietrichson and colleagues included studies that used a treatment–control group design, were performed in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and EU countries and measured achievement with standardised tests in maths or reading. The analysis included 101 studies performed between 2000 and 2014, 76% of which were randomised controlled trials.

Positive effect sizes (ES) were reported for many of the interventions. Comparatively large and robust average effect sizes were found for interventions that involved tutoring (ES = +0.36), feedback and progress monitoring (ES = +0.32) and co-operative learning (ES = +0.22). The report points out that, although these effect sizes are not large enough to close the gap between high- and low-SES pupils, they represent a substantial reduction of that gap if targeted towards low-SES students.

Source: Academic interventions for elementary and middle school students with low socioeconomic status: a systematic review and meta-analysis (January 2017), Review of Educational Research

Does the KiVa anti-bullying programme work?

A study in Prevention Science evaluates the effectiveness of the KiVa anti-bullying programme in Italy through a randomised controlled trial of students in grades 4 and 6 (equivalent to Years 5 and 7). The sample involved 2,042 students across 13 schools that were randomly assigned to intervention (KiVa) or control (usual school provision) conditions. The Italian school system is divided into primary school (grades 1–5), middle school (grades 6–8), and secondary school (grades 9–14), so only schools which had both primary and middle schools were included.

KiVa is a research-based anti-bullying programme developed by the University of Turku, Finland. It is a schoolwide intervention that is focused on the bystanders’ reactions to a bullying situation, which assist and reinforce the bully, and aims to change their attitudes and behaviours.

Researchers Annalaura Nocentini and Ersilia Menesini considered different outcomes (bullying, victimisation, pro-bullying attitudes, pro-victim attitudes, empathy toward victims), analyses, and estimates of effectiveness in order to compare the Italian results with those from other countries. Multilevel models showed significant results for KiVa for all outcomes and analyses in grade 4. In grade 6, KiVa also reduced bullying, victimisation, and pro-bullying attitudes, but the effects were smaller as compared to grade 4, although still significant. The results also showed that the odds of being a victim were 1.93 times higher for a control student than for a KiVa student in grade 4. Overall, their findings provide evidence of the effectiveness of the programme in Italy.

Source: KiVa Anti-Bullying Program in Italy: Evidence of Effectiveness in a Randomized Control Trial (2016), Prevention Science, 17(8)

Which schools abandon interventions?

A new study published in Prevention Science looks at which schools persevere with interventions and which abandon them.

Led by Kent McIntosh from the University of Oregon, the researchers looked at 5,331 schools during five years of implementing schoolwide positive behavioural interventions and supports (SWPBIS) – a school-wide behaviour management program. The extent to which a school was implementing the program was measured using three surveys completed by the schools each year. Analysing this data, the researchers identified four different kinds of schools:

  • Sustainers (29% of schools) had a high likelihood of meeting the fidelity criterion across all years of implementation.
  • Slow Starters (13%) had an inconsistent pattern of reaching the fidelity criterion across the first three years of implementation that then increased to nearly the level of the Sustainers in the fourth and fifth years.
  • Late Abandoners (24%) were more likely than not to reach the fidelity criterion in the first three years of implementation, but then were very unlikely to reach the criterion in the fourth and fifth years.
  • Rapid Abandoners (34%) had a high probability of reaching the fidelity criterion in the first year, but dropped off rapidly and remained low in subsequent years.

Schools were more likely to abandon if they were middle or high schools, smaller, and had fewer schools locally that were already using SWPBIS. The researchers suggest that their results highlight the importance of supporting those schools implementing programs, particularly in Year 1 (when Rapid Abandoners are already struggling) and Year 3 (when Late Abandoners are more likely to quit).

Source: Identifying and Predicting Distinct Patterns of Implementation in a School-Wide Behavior Support Framework (2016), Prevention Science

Identifying students who may drop out

Many schools in the US now use early warning systems to help them identify students at risk of dropping out. Staff then intervene and monitor these at-risk students to try to keep them on course to graduation.

A new guide from the Institute of Education Sciences and REL Northwest reviews studies of these early warning systems. It summarises what is known about promising practices of early dropout warning systems and how schools can apply these research results. The results of several studies are discussed regarding:

  • Creating and training an early warning intervention team;
  • Establishing warning indicators that a student is off track;
  • Designing reports and applying report data;
  • Intervening appropriately with individual students; and
  • Assessing the intervention’s effectiveness and student progress.

Source: A Practitioner’s Guide To Implementing Early Warning Systems (2015), Institute of Education Sciences.

Boosting the life chances of non-white boys

A new report from MDRC looks at what is known about the economic and social disadvantage of non-white young men in the US and the evidence behind initiatives that may help to tackle this problem.

The paper reviews the results from a number of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and highlights promising interventions. Interventions are divided into two broad categories: (a) Proactive Approaches: preventive interventions aimed at young men who are still connected to positive systems (like schools or community colleges) that seek to enhance their success in moving through those systems and on to productive careers, and (b) Reconnection Approaches: interventions targeting those who have disconnected from positive systems. The report also lists ongoing research with results expected soon.

The authors note that well-targeted and well-implemented programmes can make a difference, but to make a lasting difference, successful interventions must be taken to scale — that is, replicated and expanded successfully in new places and settings.

As well as identifying proven and promising programmes, the authors outline four additional (evidence-based) approaches that could have wider implications for supporting young people from underperforming groups. These are:

  • Encouraging young people to apply for the best higher education establishment they are capable of attending, not “undermatching”;
  • Specialised support within higher education for students from underperforming groups;
  • Embedding Cognitive Behavioral Therapy within employment schemes for those within the justice system; and
  • New approaches to summer jobs and internships to help give work experience to help build work-readiness, a CV, and gain references.

Source: Boosting the Life Chances of Young Men of Color: Evidence from Promising Programs (2014), MDRC

Disappointing findings for Responsive Classroom

A new article in the American Educational Research Journal describes a randomised controlled trial (RCT) to examine the efficacy of the Responsive Classroom (RC) approach on pupil achievement. The authors found that pupils taught using RC did not outperform those at schools assigned to the control condition in maths or reading.

RC is a widely used professional development intervention comprising practical teaching strategies designed to support children’s social, academic, and self-regulatory skills. More than 120,000 teachers have been trained in the approach. This trial involved 2,904 children from 24 US schools. They were randomised into intervention and control conditions, and studied from the end of second grade (Year 3) to fifth grade (Year 6).

Results showed that random assignment to RC did not have an impact on achievement outcomes. The authors say that other RCT results linking social-emotional learning (SEL) interventions to SEL outcomes are similarly lacklustre, and that there are several plausible explanations including the trial involving too few schools to detect a small effect. They also note that some outcomes (eg, motivation and engagement) may not adequately translate into outcomes measured by state standardised achievement tests, and that adopting interventions such as the RC approach involves a long process of teacher change ranging from three to five years. Data for this study was gathered during teachers’ first and second years of RC implementation, early in the process of adoption.

Source: Efficacy of the Responsive Classroom Approach: Results From a 3-Year, Longitudinal Randomized Controlled Trial (2014), American Educational Research Journal, 51(3).