How ESSA supports social and emotional learning

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) allows US states to use federal funding to adopt research-proven programmes to improve pupil achievement. This includes social-emotional learning (SEL) programmes. To offer some guidance and inform decision makers, RAND has released a report, Social and emotional learning interventions under the Every Student Succeeds Act, which reviews recent evidence on these programmes. The report discusses how ESSA supports SEL programmes and outlines the programmes that meet the ESSA evidence standards.

Specifically, authors found 60 SEL programmes that met strong, moderate, or promising evidence standards in grades K-12 (Years   1 to 13). Most were evaluated at the primary school level in urban communities with minority populations. A second report describes these programmes and the research that supports them in detail.

Source: Social and emotional learning interventions under the Every Student Succeeds Act: evidence review (2017), RAND Corporation, RR-2133-WF

New evidence on maths teaching

A new review of evidence, commissioned by the EEF and the Nuffield Foundation, analyses the best available international research on teaching maths to children aged 9–14 to find out what the evidence says about effective maths teaching. It highlights some areas of maths teaching – like feedback, collaborative learning and different types of textbooks – and considers what the evidence says, and how much evidence there is.

One area where there is strong evidence is using calculators to support learning. The report suggests that pupils’ maths skills may not be harmed by using calculators as previously thought. In fact, using them in maths lessons can boost puipils’ calculation and problem-solving skills if they are used in a thoughtful and considered way.

Other findings include:

  • Maths homework tends to benefit older pupils, but not those in primary school
  • Teacher subject knowledge is crucial for realising the potential of maths resources and interventions to raise attainment
  • High-quality feedback tends to have a large effect on learning, but it should be used sparingly and mainly for more complex tasks

Source: Evidence for review of mathematics teaching: Improving mathematics in Key Stages two and three: Evidence review (March 2018), Education Endowment Foundation

Why do so few low- and middle-income children attend a grammar school?

A new study led by John Jerrim at UCL Institute of Education suggests that private tutoring may be one reason that children from high-income families are more likely to get into grammar schools than children from low-income families.

The research, which was funded by the Nuffield Foundation, uses data from the Millennium Cohort Study for more than 1,800 children from grammar school areas in England and Northern Ireland. It considers how factors such as family income, prior academic achievement, private tutoring and parental attitudes and aspirations are linked with children’s chances of attending a grammar school.

The study finds that children from families in the bottom quarter of household incomes in England have less than a 10% chance of attending a grammar school. This compares to around a 40% chance for children in the top quarter of household incomes. Results also show that children who receive tutoring to prepare for grammar school entrance exams are more likely to get in. Overall, around 70% of those who receive tutoring get into a grammar school, compared to just 14% of those who do not. However, less than 10% of children from families with below average income receive tutoring for the grammar school entrance test, compared with around 30% of children from households in the top quarter of family incomes.

Source: Why do so few low and middle-income children attend a grammar school?  New evidence from the Millennium Cohort Study (March 2018), UCL Institute of Education

Looking at the research on screen time

Courtney Nugent and Lauren Supplee from Child Trends have released a research brief on five ways screen time can benefit children and families. The brief looks at guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and links to multiple sources of research on the topic, such as journal articles in the International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction and Infant and Child Development.

The five recommendations are as follows:

  • Certain kinds of digital tools can support family interactions. For example, using video chat (Skype, Facetime, etc) allows family members to connect with one another when in-person interactions may not be possible.
  • It’s important to support children’s healthy development through co-viewing and co-playing. For example, it is important that parents answer and ask questions about the material they are co-viewing, point out important concepts and blend the content they are viewing together into their daily lives and routines.
  • Parents can choose high-quality digital content for their child’s viewing. The brief notes that websites like Common Sense Media, PBS Kids and Sesame Workshop can help parents decide which apps and programs are best for their children.
  • Like physical tools, digital tools can promote school readiness. According to the brief, research suggests that preschool children can learn best from well-designed e-books with limited distracting features (such as games and sounds) and when parents’ questions focus on the stories themselves rather than the features of the electronic medium (such as pushing buttons).
  • Digital tools can support parent and child togetherness. For example, technology can elicit exciting topics for conversation and encourage family members to spend time with one another.

Source: 5 ways screen time can benefit children and families (March 2018), Child Trends

School-based mental health services for primary children

School-based services delivered by teachers and other school-based professionals can help reduce mental health problems in primary-age children, reports a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

The findings are based on a meta-analysis of 43 controlled trials involving almost 50,000 primary school children. The study examined the overall effectiveness of school-based mental health services, as well as the relative effectiveness of various school-based intervention models that differed according to treatment target, format and intensity.

Overall, school-based services had a small to medium effect (effect size = +0.39) in reducing mental health problems. Interventions that targeted child behaviour problems demonstrated the largest effect sizes (+0.76). Interventions that were implemented multiple times per week were found to be more than twice as effective as those that were only implemented on a weekly (or less) basis.

Source: The effectiveness of school-based mental health services for elementary-aged children: A meta-analysis (March 2018), Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 57, Issue 3

Better evidence needed on appropriate screen time for children

A briefing paper published by the British Psychological Society states that much of the evidence for the negative effects of screen use in children and teenagers is not based on robust enough science.

The report recognises that the issue of children’s digital media use is more complex than just screen time and calls for new guidelines to be built on robust evidence. To do this, it offers a number of recommendations for government officials, policy makers and practitioners interested in the impact of social media and digital technology on children and young people’s mental health.

Recommendations for research include:

  • Studies should be designed which can identify causality and increase our understanding of when screen use is harmful and when it is beneficial.
  • More qualitative methods, such as interviews, ethnography and participatory research should be employed with young people to understand their media practices and what they want from digital media.

It also offers guidance for families on how to reduce the negative impact that technology can have on some young people’s mental health, which include:

  • Discuss the different aspects of digital media with children and encourage positive media use.
  • Minimise screen use before bed time.
  • Encourage children to engage in a variety of activities away from screens.

Source: Changing behaviour:  Children, adolescents and screen use (January 2018), British Psychological Society