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

Toolkit shows best way to spend Pupil Premium

The Pupil Premium Toolkit is a resource commissioned by the Sutton Trust, and more information has just been published. The idea is that the Toolkit gives teachers and schools guidance on how they might best spend the Pupil Premium to improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils, specifically in terms of the strength of evidence to support particular practices. The information shows the impact of a particular approach in terms of the extra months of progress a child might be expected to make.

Source: Education Endowment Foundation, Sutton Trust 

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.

A Finnish model worth replicating

In a recent blog post, the IEE’s Robert Slavin argues that there is something we should copy from Finland. An article by Pasi Sahlberg, of the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, explains that Finland’s success is no miracle, but is based on studying the policies and practices of other countries, trying them out in Finland, and keeping those that work.

The willingness to find out what works, regardless of its source, and then try it out at home, is one Finnish innovation we should emulate, comments Professor Slavin.

Source: A Finnish model worth replicating (2012), Education Week (Sputnik Blog)

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).