Free glasses improve reading achievement

In the first US school-based study to link reading achievement with the provision of free glasses, Robert Slavin, director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education and colleagues at Johns Hopkins’ Wilmer Eye Institute, examined the effects on reading performance of providing free glasses to disadvantaged pupils.

A total of 317 second and third grade pupils (Years 3 and 4) in 12 disadvantaged Baltimore City schools had their vision tested in the autumn and winter of 2014-2015. They also completed reading pre- and post-tests from the Woodcock Language Proficiency Battery at those times. Sixty-nine percent (n=182) of the pupils’ vision tests showed they needed glasses. Pupils who needed glasses were given two pairs, one for home and one for school. Lost or broken glasses were replaced, and school staff were enlisted to help children remember to wear their glasses. Results showed that the reading scores for the children provided with glasses improved more than those for pupils who did not need glasses (effect size=+0.16).

The study points to a new strategy for improving reading performance in high-poverty schools.

Source: In plain sight: reading outcomes of providing eyeglasses to disadvantaged children (May 2018) Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR) DOI: 10.1080/10824669.2018.1477602

Fostering curiosity can promote academic achievement

A new research article by Prachi Shah and colleagues at the University of Michigan shows that children who are curious have higher academic achievement than those who aren’t. In fact, they see cultivating curiosity in the classroom—promoting the joy of discovery and motivating pupils to find out answers to life’s questions—as an untapped strategy for early academic success.

Researchers used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which has tracked thousands of children since 2001. Children were followed via parent interviews and assessing the children at ages 9 months, 2 years, in pre-K (reception) and kindergarten (Year 1), and then looking at the reading, maths and behavioural skills of 6,200 of these children in 2006 and 2007 when they were in kindergarten. After controlling for other factors that might influence academic achievement, results showed that eagerness to learn new things had a small but positive influence on kindergartners’ reading (effect size=+0.11) and maths (+0.12). This was even more so for children from low SES backgrounds (effect size=+0.18 in reading, +0.20 in maths).

Source: Early childhood curiosity and kindergarten reading and math academic achievement (April 2018), Pediatric Research

Evaluation of computer game to teach pupils to read

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) recently carried out an evaluation of a trial of the GraphoGame Rime intervention for the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and Wellcome Trust.

GraphoGame Rime is a computer game designed to teach pupils to read by developing their phonological awareness and phonic skills. The game is delivered in small groups supervised by a teacher or teaching assistant, with pupils working on individual devices, as the game is designed to constantly adjust the difficulty to challenge the learner at an appropriate level.

The pupil-randomised controlled trial involved 398 Year 2 pupils with low phonics skills in 15 schools in Cambridgeshire, and was designed to determine the impact of the intervention on pupils’ reading skills. The results of the evaluation found no evidence that GraphoGame Rime improved pupils’ reading or spelling test scores when compared to business-as-usual (effect size =-0.06). The intervention also showed no impact on reading or spelling test scores for pupils eligible for free school meals compared with the business-as-usual control group.

Source:  GraphoGame Rime: Evaluation report and executive summary (May 2018), Education Endowment Foundation

The impacts of Reading Recovery at scale

A study published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis presents findings from a four-year evaluation of a national scale-up of Reading Recovery – a one-to-one reading intervention for struggling first grade (Year 2) readers. The evaluation included an implementation study and a multisite randomised controlled trial with 6,888 pupils in 1,222 schools in the US.

Philip Sirinides and colleagues compared the achievement of struggling first grade (Year 2) readers following the Reading Recovery programme with business-as-usual literacy teaching. Results were measured using pupils’ scores on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) total reading assessment, as well as the ITBS reading comprehension and reading words subtests.

Results showed a medium to large effect on pupils’ reading over the course of the four years (effect size = +0.37) compared to the control group. The impacts of Reading Recovery on the ITBS total reading scores showed an effect size of +0.37. The effect sizes for ITBS reading comprehension and reading words subtests were +0.38 and +0.35, respectively. Effect sizes tended to be larger in schools where pupils had lower average reading performance overall.

Source: The impacts of Reading Recovery at scale: results from the 4-year i3 external evaluation (March 2018), Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis

Early struggling readers and summertime intervention

Kristen Beach and colleagues at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, examined the effects of receiving a reading programme during the summer on the reading achievement of struggling readers in comparison to similarly performing struggling readers who did not receive this summer intervention.

Thirty-two rising second and third graders (Years 3 and 4) in a large urban school in south-eastern US comprised the experimental group. To be eligible for the study, pupils had to score beneath a cutoff point for each grade level on reading fluency. The comparison group was composed of pupils at a nearby school who were matched by age, ethnicity and standardised test scores the prior spring. Both schools were Title I schools (Title 1 provides financial assistance to local educational agencies and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families) and both sets of pupils were African-American and Hispanic and from low-income backgrounds.

Pupils in the experimental group received 15 intensive hour-long one-to-one or one-to-two sessions from 10 teachers using the Sound Partners programme five times a week for three weeks. Post-test scores in the autumn showed that although pupils who received Sound Partners in the summer outscored the control group in overall reading measures by 0.25 SD, gains in fluency were minimal, and no gains in any area were statistically significant. The authors discuss these findings and conclude that for early readers who have not mastered basic decoding and fluency, an intervention that is longer than 15 hours over three weeks is necessary in order to produce significant improvement in reading. They recommend that planners of summer programmes aimed at increasing reading achievement carefully consider the variables that will lead to the greatest success.

Source: Effects of a summer reading intervention on reading skills for low-income Black and Hispanic students in elementary school (April 2018), Reading & Writing Quarterly, DOI: 10.1080/10573569.2018.1446859

Effective reading programmes for secondary pupils

Ariane Baye from the University of Liege and Cynthia Lake, Amanda Inns and Robert Slavin from the Center for Research and Reform in Education have completed an update to their report on effective secondary reading programmes. The paper, A Synthesis of Quantitative Research on Reading Programs for Secondary Students, focuses on 69 studies that used random assignment (n=62) or high-quality quasi-experiments (n=7) to evaluate outcomes of 51 programmes on widely accepted measures of reading.

The authors found that categories of programmes using one-to-one and small-group tutoring, cooperative learning, whole-school approaches including organisational reforms such as teacher teams, and writing-focused approaches showed positive outcomes. Individual approaches in a few other categories also showed positive impacts. These approaches included programmes emphasising humanities/science, structured strategies and personalised and group/personalisation rotation approaches for struggling readers. Programmes that provide a daily extra period of reading and those utilising technology were no more effective, on average, than programmes that did not provide these resources.

The findings suggest that secondary readers benefit more from socially and cognitively engaging instruction than from additional reading periods or technology.

Source: Research on reading programs for secondary students (January 2018), Johns Hopkins University, Center for Research and Reform in Education.