The costs and benefits of education interventions

A new series of publications aims to provide independent investment advice for children’s services. Launched last Friday Investing in Children, from the Social Research Unit at Dartington, will publish reports on the effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness, of programmes and approaches. The reports look at the financial costs of particular interventions, the financial benefits to taxpayers and participants, and the risk that an approach might not be successful. The first two reports look at interventions for early years and education, and youth justice. In the early years and education report, programmes rated include Reading Recovery, Success for All and Life Skills Training.

Source: Investing in Children

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 never too late

A special issue of the Journal of Children’s Services focuses on working with children and their families to reduce the risks of crime and anti-social behaviour. One article, co-written by the IEE’s Tracey Bywater, emphasises that despite the current focus on “early intervention” in policy, programmes aimed at older children can also be effective.

The authors found that there are increasing numbers of effective programmes for children aged 9–13 that aim to reduce current or future involvement in criminal or anti-social behaviour. These include school, family, and community programmes.

Source: Supporting from the start: effective programmes for nine to 13 year-olds (2006), Journal of Children’s Services, 7(1)

Professional development and high-stakes testing

This study, published in the International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, examines the relationship between primary teacher participation in a multi-year professional development (CPD) effort and “high stakes” science test scores. 

A total of 1,269 US primary school teachers participated in the CPD programme, which utilised regional summer workshops and distance education to help the teachers learn science concepts, inquiry teaching strategies, and how to adapt science inquiry lessons to teach and reinforce skills in English lessons. Findings of the study showed that there was a significant positive relationship between the CPD hours experienced by the teachers and pupil gains.

Source: How much professional development is needed to effect positive gains in K-6 student achievement on high stakes science tests? (2012), International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 10(1)

What works for whole-school reform?

The Consortium on Chicago School Research has released a new report that examines five different reform models initiated by Chicago Public Schools in 36 primary and secondary schools identified as chronically low performing. The reform models, implemented between 1997 and 2010, involved strategies such as staff replacement, leadership replacement, governance replacement, and change in attendance rules (see Table 1 on page 3 of the report for specific models and their key elements).

Findings showed that primary and middle schools (lower-secondary age) that were part of the turnaround effort made significant improvements in test scores compared with similar schools that did not; however, large improvements did not occur immediately in the first year. In contrast secondary schools that underwent reform did not show significant improvements in absences, or percentages of ninth grade pupils (Year 10) considered “on track to graduate” over matched comparison schools.

Source: Turning around low-performing schools in Chicago: Summary Report (2012), The University of Chicago

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