Helping youth transition to adulthood

A new report by Cynthia Miller and colleagues at MDRC examines four-year results from a national evaluation of YouthBuild. The report describes YouthBuild as a programme that attempts to improve prospects for less-educated young people, serving over 10,000 individuals each year at over 250 organisations nationwide. Each organisation provides hands-on, construction-related or other vocational training, educational services, case management, counselling, service to the community, and leadership-development opportunities, to low-income young people ages 16 to 24 who did not complete secondary school.

MDRC evaluated the YouthBuild programme using a randomised controlled trial. Study participants were either invited to enrol in YouthBuild (the intervention group) or referred to other services in the community (the control group). A total of 75 programmes across the country were included, with a sample of nearly 4,000 young people who enrolled in the study between 2011 and 2013. Data included in-person observations, survey data, and administrative records.

Key findings of the evaluation included:

  • YouthBuild increased the receipt of high school equivalency credentials.
  • YouthBuild increased enrolment in college, largely during the first two years. Very few young people had earned a degree after four years, and the programme had a very small effect on degree receipt.
  • YouthBuild increased survey-reported employment rates, wages, and earnings, but did not increase employment as measured with employer-provided administrative records, which might not include certain kinds of employment and other types of informal work.
  • YouthBuild increased civic engagement, largely via participation in YouthBuild services. It had no effects on other measures of positive youth development.

Overall, the authors say the effects observed through four years indicate that the programme provides a starting point for redirecting otherwise disconnected young people.

Source: Laying a foundation: Four-year results from the national YouthBuild evaluation (May 2018), MDRC

Maths on a tablet helps low-performing pupils, for a while

Published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, Martin Hassler and colleagues carried out a randomised controlled trial or of a mathematics intervention on tablets (iPads).

The trial involved 283 low-performing second graders (Year 3) spread across 27 urban schools in Sweden. The children were randomised to four groups:

  • A maths intervention called Chasing Planets, consisting of 261 planets on a space map, each with a unique maths exercise (addition or subtraction up to 12). Pupils practised for 20 minutes a day.
  • The maths intervention combined with working memory training, where pupils spent an additional 10 minutes each day on working memory tasks.
  • A placebo group who practised mostly reading tasks on the tablet (again for 20 minutes each day), including Chasing Planets-Reading, which had a similar format to the maths intervention.
  • A control group who received no intervention, not even on improving their skills on the tablets.

The intervention lasted for around 20 weeks, with children completing nine measures at pre- and post-test, and then after six and 12 months.

Both maths conditions scored significantly higher (effect size = +0.53–0.67) than the control and placebo groups on the post-test of basic arithmetic, but not on measures of arithmetic transfer or problem solving. There was no additional benefit of the working memory training. The effects faded at the six-month follow-up (effect size = +0.18–0.28) and even more so after 12 months (effect size = +0.03–0.13).

IQ was a significant moderator of direct and long-term effects, such that children with lower IQ benefited more than higher IQ pupils. Socioeconomic factors did not moderate outcomes.

Source: Short and long-term effects of a mathematics tablet intervention for low performing second graders (November 2018), Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 110(8)

Low-cost tutoring boosted struggling pupils’ maths results

An evaluation of the Education Endowment Foundation trial of Tutor Trust’s affordable tuition project found that low-cost tutoring in small groups increased maths scores for disadvantaged pupils who are working below age-expected levels in maths.

One hundred and five schools in Manchester and Leeds with double the average numbers of disadvantaged pupils participated in the effectiveness trial of the Tutor Trust project from September 2016 until July 2017. The aim of the project is to improve the maths achievement of disadvantaged pupils by providing small-group tutoring sessions with trained university students and recent graduates.

Year 6 pupils (ages 10–11) who were struggling with maths were selected by their teacher to receive extra support from Tutor Trust tutors, should their school be randomly allocated to the intervention group. The selected pupils in the intervention schools received 12 hours of additional tuition, usually one hour per week for 12 weeks, in groups of three. Pupils in the control schools continued with normal teaching. Achievement was measured using Key Stage 2 maths scores.

The report found that children who received tutoring from Tutor Trust progressed more in maths compared to children in control schools (effect size = +0.19). Among children eligible for free school meals, the effect size was +0.25. There was also some evidence that pupils with lower prior achievement tended to benefit more from the tutoring.

Source: Tutor Trust: Affordable primary tuition evaluation report and executive summary (November 2018), Education Endowment Foundation

Review of school-based interventions for children with ADHD

A systematic review published in Review of Education looks at the evidence from randomised controlled trials of the effectiveness of interventions for children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in school settings.

Twenty-eight studies were included in the review and were sorted into eight categories of school-based intervention for ADHD. They were analysed for effectiveness according to a range of different ADHD symptoms, difficulties and school outcomes. The eight categories of intervention were: combined/multiple component; cognitive training; daily report card; neuro-feedback; relaxation; self-monitoring; study and organisation skills training; and task modification.

The strongest evidence of beneficial effects was found for interventions that combine multiple components. There was a large effect size (+0.79) for improved ADHD symptoms rated by teachers and parents, and a small effect size (+0.30) for parent- and teacher-rated academic outcomes.

Interventions involving daily report cards also showed some promise for academic outcomes (effect size = +0.68). There was a beneficial effect on academic outcomes for neuro-feedback interventions, and mixed findings for relaxation and self-monitoring interventions.

Source: School‐based interventions for attention‐deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A systematic review with multiple synthesis methods (October 2018), Review of Education Volume 6, Issue 3

Does mindfulness training work for young people?

A meta-analysis published in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry aims to establish the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) for children.

Darren Dunning and colleagues carried out a systematic literature search of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of MBIs conducted up to October 2017. Thirty-three studies (3,666 children, ages 18 years or younger) were included in the meta-analysis, with outcome measures categorised into cognitive, behavioural, and emotional. In addition, a separate meta-analysis was completed for 17 RCTs (1,762 children) that had an active control condition (ie, something else that might be expected to benefit participants, but did not include mindfulness).

Across all RCTs, the researchers found small positive effects of MBIs, compared with control groups, for all measures (overall effect size = +0.19). In particular, MBIs led to greater improvements for mindfulness (effect size = +0.24), executive functions (effect size = +0.30), and attention (effect size = +0.13). However, for the RCTs with active control groups, children who completed an MBI improved significantly more than those in the active control groups on outcomes of mindfulness (effect size = +0.42), depression (effect size = +0.47), and anxiety/stress (effect size = +0.18) only.

Source: Research review: The effects of mindfulness‐based interventions on cognition and mental health in children and adolescents – a meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials (October 2018), The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry doi:10.1111/jcpp.12980

Reviewing the evidence on career and technical education

A new report by Rachel Rosen and colleagues at MDRC reviews the available research evidence supporting various types of career and technical education (CTE) programmes, examining both the amount of evidence available in each area and its level of rigour. The report details several CTE programme types (eg, instruction and training, apprenticeships and readiness skills training) and provides a literature review of the available evidence to support each programme type.

Key findings were as follows:

  • The most evidence exists for CTE course work and training. In that area, there are multiple studies suggesting that participation in CTE can improve pupils’ outcomes. In addition, multiple studies found that career-related certificates and associate’s degrees are linked to increased wages.
  • Several career pathway models, particularly career academies and early college high schools, are also supported by strong, rigorous studies that provide evidence of positive benefits for pupils.
  • The evidence for other models and for individual programme components is weaker. The authors suggest that these models and components probably need to be evaluated further.

Source: Career and technical education current policy, prominent programs, and evidence (September 2018), MDRC