Research shows that pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to attend pre-school or to have a home environment incorporating literacy and language activities than their less disadvantaged peers. As a result, children from low socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to enter school with the social and academic skills needed to set them up for success. Jans Deitrichson and colleagues at the Danish National Centre for Social Research recently performed a meta-analysis aimed at determining what components within academic interventions are the most effective at improving the achievement of primary school students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds.
A total of 101 studies performed between 2000–2014 were included in the meta-analysis. Seventy-six percent were randomised controlled trials and the rest were quasi-experimental studies. Studies had to target pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds, utilise standardised test results in reading and maths as the outcome measures, and take place in OECD or EU countries, although most were in the US. They also had to contain information that allowed the researchers to calculate effect sizes.
The authors sorted each study’s academic intervention into “component categories” (the methods used). Examples include coaching/ mentoring of pupils, cooperative learning, incentives, small-group tutoring, or a combination of these or other methods. Analysis demonstrated that tutoring, feedback and progress monitoring, and cooperative learning were the components with the largest effect sizes. The authors stated that although the average effect sizes for these components were not large enough to close the achievement gap between high- and low-socioeconomic pupils, they certainly reduced it. They suggest that cost-effectiveness studies should be performed on these programmes to give policymakers and educators a fuller picture of programme benefits.
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, Vol 87, Issue 2
An independent evaluation for the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) of the Switch-on intervention has found no evidence that it improves the reading outcomes of pupils struggling with literacy at Key Stage 1 (ages 5–7 years) compared to schools’ usual practices.
Switch-on is an intensive, targeted literacy intervention that aims to improve the reading skills of pupils who are struggling with literacy. There are two versions of the intervention: Switch-on Reading and Switch-on Reading and Writing. Both involve specially trained Teaching Assistants (TAs) delivering a tailored programme of literacy support in daily 20-minute sessions over a ten-week period.
Schools selected pupils in Year 3 who were working below age-related expectations at the end of Key Stage 1 and who did not have a high level of special needs. Each of the 184 participating schools was then randomly assigned to receive either Switch-on Reading, Switch-on Reading and Writing, or to continue their usual practices of supporting pupils with reading difficulties. In total, 999 pupils were involved in the trial.
Estimated effect sizes were zero and not statistically significant. The intervention also showed no effect on pupils eligible for free school meals. These findings contradict a previous, smaller EEF-funded evaluation of Switch-on which had shown signs of promise in raising reading outcomes for Year 7 pupils.
Source: Switch-on – effectiveness trial (May 2017), Education Endowment Foundation
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
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)
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
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.