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

Success for group-based parenting programmes

A new systematic review has shown that group-based parenting programmes can improve children’s behaviour problems in the short-term, as well as developing positive parenting skills and reducing parental anxiety, stress, and depression.

The review, which was produced for the Cochrane Collaboration, also concluded that these programmes were cost-effective when compared to the long-term social, educational, and legal costs associated with childhood conduct problems. The review was based on trials involving more than 1,000 participants in total.

Source: Behavioural and cognitive-behavioural group-based parenting programmes for early-onset conduct problems in children aged 3 to 12 years (2012), Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

Invest early, but use evidence

Researchers from the NFER have been looking at early intervention, that is, approaches delivered “early in the life of a problem, or when children are younger”. This study, which is the fourth in a series for the Local Government Association, found that such approaches can have greater benefits in the long term and therefore be more cost effective.

But it highlighted the need for programmes to be evidence-based, and for these to be delivered with fidelity to the programme’s design. The authors emphasise that more work is needed to improve the evidence that is available, especially information about cost-effectiveness. Meanwhile, the Department for Education has announced the next steps in the creation of the Early Intervention Foundation, which will provide advice and support on issues relating to early intervention.

Source: Early intervention: informing local practise (2012), National Foundation for Educational Research

Evidence, evidence, evidence

In a recent speech, and an article in The Times, Shadow Education Secretary, Stephen Twigg MP, has outlined his commitment to “evidence, evidence, evidence”.

He proposes the creation of an “Office for Educational Improvement, independent of ministers, along the lines of the Office for Budgetary Responsibility that was set up by this Government.”

Mentioning the Coalition for Evidence-based Education (CEBE), he notes that “Teachers rarely have time to look at research and academics don’t always see the relevance of their work to the classroom so I will look at how we can work with organisations such as [CEBE].”

CEBE is an alliance of researchers, policy makers, and practitioners who share an interest in reforming the way research evidence is used in policy and practice.

Source: Evidence, not dogma: a smart way to raise education standards (2012), Labour

What works for whole-school reform?

The Consortium on Chicago School Research has released a new report that examines five different reform models initiated by Chicago Public Schools in 36 primary and secondary schools identified as chronically low performing. The reform models, implemented between 1997 and 2010, involved strategies such as staff replacement, leadership replacement, governance replacement, and change in attendance rules (see Table 1 on page 3 of the report for specific models and their key elements).

Findings showed that primary and middle schools (lower-secondary age) that were part of the turnaround effort made significant improvements in test scores compared with similar schools that did not; however, large improvements did not occur immediately in the first year. In contrast secondary schools that underwent reform did not show significant improvements in absences, or percentages of ninth grade pupils (Year 10) considered “on track to graduate” over matched comparison schools.

Source: Turning around low-performing schools in Chicago: Summary Report (2012), The University of Chicago

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