New WWC practice guide on preventing dropout in secondary schools

The What Works Clearinghouse has released a new practice guide, Preventing Dropout in Secondary Schools , that offers research-based recommendations for reducing dropout rates in middle and secondary schools. The goal is to help educators and administrators learn strategies for identifying at-risk pupils and addressing the challenges they face.

The WWC and an expert panel chaired by Russell Rumberger from the University of California, Santa Barbara synthesised existing research on the topic and combined it with insight from the panel to identify the following four recommendations, which include a rating of the strength of the research evidence supporting each recommendation:

  • Monitor the progress of all pupils, and proactively intervene when pupils show early signs of attendance, behaviour, or academic problems (minimal evidence).
  • Provide intensive, individualised support to pupils who have fallen off track and face significant challenges to success (moderate evidence).
  • Engage pupils by offering curricula and programmes that connect schoolwork with college and career success and that improve pupils’ capacity to manage challenges in and out of school (strong evidence).
  • For schools with many at-risk pupils, create small, personalised communities to facilitate monitoring and support (moderate evidence).

Each recommendation provides specific, actionable strategies; examples of how to implement the recommended practices in schools; advice on how to overcome potential obstacles; and a description of the supporting evidence.

Source: Preventing dropout in secondary schools U.S. (September 2017), What Works Clearing House, Institute of Education Sciences Practice Guide

Report finds mixed effects for Saxon Math

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the US has released a new research report on Saxon Math, and findings show mixed results for the programme.

Saxon Math is a curriculum for pupils in grades K-12 (Years 1-13). It uses an incremental structure that distributes content throughout the year. For the IES report, researchers reviewed studies of Saxon Math’s primary courses, which include kindergarten (Year 1) through pre-algebra. Out of 26 studies eligible for review, five studies fell within the scope of the What Work Clearinghouse’s (WWC) primary maths topic area and met WWC design standards. These five studies included 8,855 pupils in grades 1–3 and 6–8 in 149 schools across at least 18 states.

According to the report, the estimated impact of the intervention on outcomes in the mathematics achievement domain was positive and substantively important in two studies and indeterminate in three studies. The authors conclude that Saxon Math has mixed effects on maths test scores of pupils in primary classes.

Source: Saxon Math (May 2017), US Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, What Works Clearinghouse

Report presents latest research on Read 180 programme

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has updated its Intervention Report on READ 180, a programme designed for struggling readers who are reading two or more years below grade level.

The WWC identified nine studies of READ 180 that fell within the scope of the WWC’s Adolescent Literacy topic area and met WWC research standards. Three studies met WWC standards without reservations, and six studies met WWC standards with reservations (according to the WWC, studies receiving this rating provide a lower degree of confidence that an observed effect was caused by the intervention). Together, these studies included 8,755 teenage readers in more than 66 schools in 15 school districts and 10 states.

After examining the research, the WWC concluded that READ 180 has positive effects on comprehension and general literacy achievement, potentially positive effects on reading fluency, but no discernible effects on alphabetics.

Source: READ 180® Adolescent Literacy What Works Clearinghouse Intervention Report:  A summary of findings from a systematic review of the evidence (2016), Institute of Education Sciences

Teaching secondary students to write effectively

The Institute of Education Sciences has released a new What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) Educator’s Practice Guide. The guide, Teaching Secondary Students to Write Effectively, provides evidence-based recommendations for improving the writing skills of middle and secondary school students.

The WWC and a panel chaired by Steve Graham at Arizona State University synthesised existing research on the topic and combined it with insight from the panel to identify the following recommendations, which include a rating of the strength of the research evidence supporting each recommendation:

  • Explicitly teach appropriate writing strategies using a Model-Practice-Reflect instructional cycle (strong evidence)
  • Integrate writing and reading to emphasise key writing features (moderate evidence)
  • Use assessments of student writing to inform instruction and feedback (minimal evidence)

To help teachers put the recommendations into practice, the guide describes over 30 specific strategies for the classroom, including sample writing prompts, activities that incorporate both writing and reading, and ways to use formative assessment to inform writing instruction.

Source: Teaching secondary students to write effectively (2016), Institute of Education Sciences

What works for test preparation?

A new intervention report from the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) reviews the research on ACT and SAT test preparation and coaching programmes, which are designed to improve students’ scores on these college entrance exams.

The WWC reviewed 26 eligible studies on the topic, of which six met WWC research standards. Of these, three studies showed statistically significant positive effects for general academic achievement, and three showed indeterminate effects.

The WWC aggregated the reported effects from each study to create an assessment of effectiveness. Using this method, they concluded that ACT and SAT test preparation programmes have positive effects on general academic achievement for high school students.

Source: ACT/SAT Test Preparation and Coaching Programs (2016), What Works Clearinghouse

New guide to foundational reading skills

A new What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) practice guide focuses on the foundational reading skills that enable students to read words, relate those words to their oral language, and read connected text with sufficient accuracy and fluency to understand what they read.

The authors conducted a thorough literature search, identified studies that met protocol requirements, and then reviewed those studies against WWC standards. The review focused on studies published since 2000. The guide, Foundational Skills to Support Reading for Understanding in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade, provides four recommendations that can be used to improve literacy skills from kindergarten to third grade (Years 1–4). Each recommendation is assigned a level of evidence based on the quantity and quality of the research:

  • Teach students academic language skills, including the use of inferential and narrative language, and vocabulary knowledge (minimal evidence)
  • Develop awareness of the segments of sounds in speech and how they link to letters (strong evidence)
  • Teach students to decode words, analyse word parts, and write and recognise words (strong evidence)
  • Ensure that each student reads connected text every day to support reading accuracy, fluency, and comprehension (moderate evidence)

The practice guide is a companion to another WWC practice guide, Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade.

Source: Foundational Skills to Support Reading for Understanding in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade (2016), What Works Clearinghouse