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 not about the money

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has published a new PISA in Focus review, analysing the results of their PISA study (Programme for International Student Assessment). It explores whether money “buys” improved performance for a country, and finds that higher expenditure on education does not guarantee better pupil performance. National wealth is important up to a point, and this research focuses on countries above a certain baseline.

But, for relatively high-income economies, the success of the country’s education system
depends more on how educational resources are invested than on the volume of investment. Investing in teachers and having high expectations for all pupils are cited as particularly important characteristics.

Source: Does Money Buy Strong Performance in PISA? PISA.

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)

Excellent teaching needs political support

In the latest edition of Better: Evidence-based Education, Estelle Morris explores the interdependent relationship between education and politics. Looking forward, she describes the levers that are increasingly recognised as the way to ensure the education system delivers high standards for all pupils, with pedagogical change being the most important. She wants to see research brought to the fore, with better access to research for teachers and an improved relationship between politicians and education researchers.

Source: Managing change – The relationship between education and politics (2012), Better: Evidence-based Education, 4(2)

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 does the latest research say about head teachers?

This research brief from the RAND Corporation presents a summary of research on first-year principals’ (head teachers in the UK) experiences, actions, working conditions, and outcomes. It was created to inform efforts to promote school improvement and principal retention. To complete their study, RAND researchers looked at the experiences of first-year principals in six districts across the US. Findings included:

  • More than a fifth of first-year principals left their school within two years;
  • Schools that lost a principal after one year underperformed the following year;
  • The quality of principals’ actions was more relevant to outcomes than the amount of time devoted to the actions;
  • Greater teacher capacity and cohesiveness were related to better pupil outcomes; and
  • Principals’ personnel management skills are important.

Source: Challenges and opportunities facing principals in the first year at a school (2012), RAND Corporation