What makes for an effective summer reading programme?

This study from the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences tested the effectiveness of a summer reading programme on improving reading comprehension for disadvantaged Grade 3 pupils (age 8–9) reading below the 50th percentile. As part of the programme, children were sent a single delivery of eight books matched to their reading level and interest area during the first part of the summer. The delivery was followed by six weekly reminder postcards.

Findings showed that the summer reading programme did not have a statistically significant impact on pupil reading comprehension. However, the authors note that the study’s conclusions are constrained by several aspects of the programme’s design, including that the programme lasted just one summer and did not include teacher instruction and parent involvement. In previous studies, programmes with these components were found to be effective.

Source: Does a summer reading program based on Lexiles affect reading comprehension? (2012), Institute of Education Sciences

It’s not about the money

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has published a new PISA in Focus review, analysing the results of their PISA study (Programme for International Student Assessment). It explores whether money “buys” improved performance for a country, and finds that higher expenditure on education does not guarantee better pupil performance. National wealth is important up to a point, and this research focuses on countries above a certain baseline.

But, for relatively high-income economies, the success of the country’s education system
depends more on how educational resources are invested than on the volume of investment. Investing in teachers and having high expectations for all pupils are cited as particularly important characteristics.

Source: Does Money Buy Strong Performance in PISA? PISA.

Policies to help disadvantaged pupils

New research from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) looks at international data to explore how disadvantaged pupils can best be supported, and the findings emphasise fairness and inclusion.

Recommendations include using teaching practices that are known to make a difference for low-performing pupils, deferring any selection or ability grouping until the later secondary years to avoid exacerbating inequities, and attracting, supporting, and retaining high-quality teachers.

Source: Equity and quality in education – supporting disadvantaged students and schools (2011), OECD

Evaluating New York City’s small schools of choice

The latest findings have been published of a rigorous study on the effectiveness of 105 “small schools of choice” (SSCs) in New York City. These academically nonselective schools, each with approximately 100 students per year in grades 9 to 12 (age 14–18), were created to serve some of the district’s most disadvantaged students. They are located mainly in areas where large failing high schools had been closed. According to MDRC, which carried out the research, the schools emphasise academic rigour and strong and sustained personal relationships among students and faculty. In addition, most were founded with community partners who offer additional teaching support and resources, and provide students with additional learning opportunities.

A 2010 study showed that SSCs are markedly improving academic progress and graduation prospects for their students. In this new policy brief, the analysis is extended by a year, and shows that SSCs have positive and sustained impacts on graduation rates, as well as a positive effect on a measure of college readiness.

Source: Transforming the high school experience: How New York City’s new small schools are boosting student achievement and graduation rates (2010), MDRC

UK disappoints on social mobility

A report by the Sutton Trust, which compared social mobility in several countries, found that the UK performs poorly.

The key findings of the report were that:

  • Gaps in school readiness in England between disadvantaged children and their counterparts were wider than in similar countries, such as Canada and Australia, but narrower than the United States.
  • Formal preschool education can have lasting effects in reducing the educational gap between high and low income children.
  • Disparities in early child outcomes persist into adolescence.
  • Unlike other countries, the achievement gap in England actually widens in secondary school.
  • None of the countries in the study reduce the disparity as children age.

The report concludes that addressing the social stratification in secondary schools remains one of the key challenges for improving social mobility in the UK.

Source: Latest research report: what prospects for mobility in the UK? A cross-national study of educational inequalities and their implications for future education and earnings mobility (2011), Sutton Trust

Family literacy programmes should help children and parents

A new study has found that children living in poverty and whose mothers have no educational qualifications do less well in language, literacy and social development than their peers. Frequent home learning alone does not compensate for this disadvantage.

It suggests that family literacy programmes should have a wider remit in terms of supporting families (for example, encouraging parents to take part in educational activities themselves) rather than solely focusing on supporting parents to give specific literacy or numeracy skills to their children.

Source: Families’ social backgrounds matter: socio-economic factors, home learning and young children’s language, literacy and social outcomes (2011), British Educational Research Journal 37(6)