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

Sleep and test scores: Is there a connection?

new study has concluded that there is an optimum amount of time for children and young people to sleep in terms of how well they perform in school, and more is not necessarily better. The research, published in the Eastern Economic Journal, used data from 1,724 primary and secondary pupils to explore the relationship between sleep and performance on standardised tests. 

Findings showed a statistically significant relationship between the two, with the most beneficial amount of time varying by age. This ranged from 9-9.5 hours for 10-year-olds to 7 hours for 16-year-olds.

Source: Sleep and Student Achievement (2012), Eastern Economic Journal,38(33).

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

What influences children in Year 9?

The Department for Education has published three new reports on the Effective Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education Project (EPPSE). EPPSE has followed around 3,000 children since 1997, when they were 3.

The latest reports look at the factors that influence Year 9 students’ social-behavioural outcomesmaths, English, and science outcomes; and a range of other measures, including enjoyment of school and anxiety.

There are many valuable findings, including, for example, that pupils who had a “positive transition” from primary school were more likely to have higher attainment in maths, English, and science. Time spent on homework was also a relatively strong predictor of better attainment and progress in all three core areas.

Source: EPPSE 3 to 14 final report from the key stage 3 phase: influences on students’ development from age 11 to 14 (2012), Department for Education.

Harnessing grammar: Weaving words and shaping texts

The Department for Education’s Schools Research News has picked up on an article in a recent issue of Better: Evidence-based Education that has already proved popular with readers. It summarised research by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Writing at the University of Exeter, which has developed and tested an intervention that aims to improve secondary pupils’ use and knowledge of grammar by embedding grammar teaching as part of writing lessons.

The study showed strong evidence for the beneficial impact of teaching writing in this way. However, the intervention was most effective with able writers, while for some less able writers it had a negative effect. This could be because the language used, and the needs addressed, were more relevant to able writers.

Source: Harnessing Grammar: Weaving words and shaping texts (2011), Better: Evidence-based Education, 3(2).

Are standards slipping?

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has shown a decline in the relative performance of England’s secondary pupils. Although this has been a concern to policy makers (and others) a new report from the Institute of Education argues that policy decisions should not be made on PISA findings alone. It suggests that England’s drop in the PISA ranking is not replicated in another major assessment, Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). The author, John Jerrim, argues that there are possible data limitations in both surveys.

Source: England’s “plummeting” PISA test scores between 2000 and 2009: Is the performance of our secondary school pupils really in relative decline? (2011), Department of Quantitative Social Science