Targeted Reading Intervention and struggling readers

Targeted Reading Intervention (TRI) is a programme that uses webcam technology to allow kindergarten and first grade (Year 1 and Year 2) teachers to help struggling readers while being observed by a coach who gives them real-time feedback as they work with a pupil. TRI trains teachers in their strategies during a three-day workshop in the summer, with webcam observations and feedback during the school year.

Researchers at the University of Delaware and the University of North Carolina evaluated the effect of TRI in a two-year randomised evaluation  to examine its one-year effects on struggling readers, and to examine if having a teacher teach the programme for two years affected pupil achievement.

The study took place in kindergarten and first grade (Year 1 and Year 2) classrooms in ten schools in high-poverty south eastern rural counties in the US. Subjects were equivalent at baseline on standardised testing in the autumn, and randomisation occurred at the classroom level. During the two years of the study, a total of 50 kindergarten (Year 1) classrooms (26 treatment, 24 control) and 50 first grade (Year 2) classrooms (29 treatment, 21 control) at each school were randomised, and then three struggling readers from each classroom were selected to either the treatment or control condition in each year of the study. In total, 305 pupils were assigned to receive TRI training, and 251 pupils served in the untreated control group. Treatment pupils worked with teachers one-to-one, 15 minutes a day every day for six to eight weeks. Spring post-tests showed that struggling readers who received TRI showed greater gains than struggling readers in the control condition (effect size =+0.26). Longevity of teaching the programme did not show any significant effect on pupil achievement.

Researchers also report on the results for the subset of pupils experiencing the programme who had English as an additional language, which may be found here.

Source: Improving struggling readers’ early literacy skills through a tier 2 professional development program for rural classroom teachers: The Targeted Reading Intervention (June2018), The Elementary School Journal 2018 118:4, 525-548

$575 million programme has no impact on pupil outcomes

Findings from an evaluation of a $575 million programme to improve teacher performance found that, while sites implemented new measures of teaching effectiveness and modified personnel policies accordingly, the programme had no impact on pupil outcomes.

The Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching initiative, designed and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, aimed to dramatically improve pupil outcomes by improving pupils’ access to effective teaching. Three US school districts and four charter management organisations participated in the programme, which ran between 2009 and 2016.

The final evaluation report, published by the RAND Corporation, found that by the end of 2014-15, outcomes for pupils in the settings that took part in the initiative were not better than outcomes for pupils in similar settings that did not take part. There was no evidence that low-income minority (LIM) pupils had greater access than non-LIM pupils to effective teaching. In addition, it found very few instances of improvement in the effectiveness of teaching overall, and no improvement in the effectiveness of newly hired teachers compared to experienced teachers. The evaluation also found no increase in the retention of effective teachers, although there was some decline in the retention of ineffective teachers in most settings that took part in the initiative.

The report states several possible reasons that the initiative failed to achieve its goals for improving pupil outcome:

  • incomplete implementation of the key policies and practices
  • the influence of external factors, such as state-level policy changes during the initiative
  • insufficient time for effects to appear
  • a flawed theory of action
  • a combination of all these factors.

 

Source:  Improving teaching effectiveness: Final report: The Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching through 2015–2016 (2018), RAND Corporation.

Classroom-based intervention for pupils with autism

Findings from a cluster randomised trial published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology suggest that classroom teachers can effectively deliver a programme for young pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) that results in better outcomes relative to usual school-based education.

Lindee Morgan and colleagues conducted a trial of the Social, Communication, Emotional Regulation and Transactional Support (SCERTS) intervention – a classroom-based, teacher-implemented intervention aimed at improving active engagement, adaptive communication, social skills, executive functioning and problem behaviour in elementary (primary) school pupils with ASD – to assess what improvement pupils in the intervention group made across a variety of measures compared to pupils in the control group. Sixty schools from three US states were randomly assigned to either the intervention or control groups. Teachers in the intervention group were trained in how to deliver the SCERTS programme and received coaching throughout the school year.

Results showed better outcomes for the intervention group than the control group on observed measures of classroom active engagement with respect to social interaction. The intervention group also had better outcomes on measures of adaptive communication, social skills and executive functioning (effect sizes ranged from +0.31 to +0.45).

Source: Cluster randomized trial of the classroom SCERTS intervention for elementary students with autism spectrum disorder (July 2018), Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Volume 86(7)

Evidence supports Foundations: Establishing Positive Discipline Policies

Safe and Civil Schools’ Foundations: Establishing Positive Discipline Policies is a programme designed to create a safer climate within a school and its surrounding grounds. It focuses on using proactive techniques instead of punishment to facilitate change, a technique referred to as school-wide positive behavioural intervention and support (SWPBIS). Foundations helps schools adopt and maintain these techniques by providing school teams with training and data-gathering materials, multiyear training, coaching support and school visits. The programme requires a team at each school to teach the staff these techniques, and data related to safety and behaviour is used to gauge what is working and what is not.

A randomised controlled trial in 32 US elementary (primary) schools in a large urban school district demonstrated that Foundations yielded improvements in school discipline, pupil safety policy and training, staff perceptions of pupils behaviour and suspension and tardiness rates over a two-year period. To determine if positive results of the programme would generalise into a “real world” setting, a second study continued to evaluate these elementary schools for two more years while also scaling up to add all remaining elementary and secondary schools in the district, when these schools adopted the programme without support from research funding.

In total, 74 regular public schools participated in the scale-up study. All schools received two years of Foundations training where school teams learned how to implement improvements related to safety, behaviour and discipline, and to collect and analyse related data to set goals for the next year.

As in the randomised study, schools in the second study showed gains in all areas. Specifically, after Foundations training, staff reported improved pupil behaviour, with fewer suspensions, absenteeism and tardiness, with a positive relationship evidenced between years of implementation and rates of effectiveness. The authors concluded that the improvements from the Foundations training were evidence that the programme generalises well into the real world setting.

Source: A randomized evaluation of the Safe and Civil Schools model for positive behavioral interventions and supports at elementary schools in a large urban school district, School Psychology Review, Volume 42, Issue 3

Scale-up of a Safe & Civil Schools’ model for school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports (April 2016), Psychology in the Schools, Volume 53, Issue 4

Reform needed for early years initiative

As part of their Straight Talk on Evidence initiative, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) has released a report that discusses new findings from a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of Tennessee’s voluntary pre-kindergarten programme for low-income children.

The Voluntary Pre-K (VPK) initiative provides Tennessee’s four-year-old children—with an emphasis on four year olds who are at-risk—an opportunity to develop school readiness skills (pre-academic and social skills). The study randomly assigned 3,131 eligible children who applied for admission at one of 79 oversubscribed VPK programmes across the state to either a programme group that was offered admission or a control group that was not (but could access other available child and family services in the community). Pupil achievement and other outcomes were measured in third grade (Year 4) using state educational records.

According to the LJAF report, the study found positive short-term effects on achievement (at the end of the pre-k year), but these effects dissipated as children entered elementary (primary) school and turned modestly negative by third grade (Year 4). At the third-grade follow-up, the control group scored significantly higher in maths and science achievement than the pre-k group.

The report offers possible reasons for the adverse effects, and suggests that the programme be reformed by incorporating evidence-based funding criteria aimed at improving its effectiveness over time.

Source: Large randomized trial finds state pre-k program has adverse effects on academic achievement. Reform is needed to increase effectiveness. Straight Talk on Evidence, The Laura and John Arnold Foundation

Jury still out on Teach for America

A new Campbell Collaboration systematic review has been published, which looks at the impact of Teach for America on learning outcomes.

Teach for America (TFA) is a nationwide teacher preparation programme designed to address the shortage of effective teachers, specifically in high-poverty rural and urban schools across the United States. The systematic review by Herbert Turner and colleagues considered the impact of TFA-prepared teachers relative to novice teachers, and alumni relative to veteran teachers. The impacts studied were for K–12 (Years 1–13) pupil outcomes in maths, English and science.

A total of 24 studies were eligible for the review. However, once the research design, study quality and comparison groups were considered, this was reduced to four qualifying studies.

The review found no significant effect on reading by TFA teachers in their first or second year teaching elementary grades (Years 1–6) when compared with non-TFA novice teachers. There was a small positive impact for pre-K to grade 2 (Reception to Year 3) teachers on reading, but not on maths. However, given the small evidence base, the review counsels that these results should be treated with caution.

Source:  What are the effects of Teach for America on math, English language arts, and science outcomes of K–12 students in the USA? (June 2018), A Campbell Systematic Review 2018:7