The introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) performance measure for schools in England means that schools are incentivised to encourage pupils to study this set of subjects (to count towards the EBacc, a pupil must achieve GCSE grade C or above in a range of subjects including English, maths, history or geography, two sciences, and a language). But are some subjects “better” to study than others for getting to university?
A recent Centre for Longitudinal Studies Working Paper seeks to understand the implications of subject choices at age 14 (when pupils pick their GCSE options), and if these choices then play a part in whether pupils go to university and where they end up studying.
Using data collected from the longitudinal survey, Next Steps, Jake Anders and colleagues looked at the different probabilities of applying to university, entering university, and attending a high-status university for pupils who study the full set of subjects required for EBacc, compared to those who study other combinations of subjects. Using both regression modelling and propensity score matching to test the robustness of the results, they found that pupils who study the full set of EBacc subjects are slightly more likely to apply for and to attend university (a positive effect of 4 and 3 percentage points, respectively). However, the results from the regression model imply that pupils with a full set of EBacc subjects are less likely to get into a high-status university.
The researchers emphasise that the differences are not large, and ultimately it’s far more important to perform well in whatever subject is studied, so the likely implications of more pupils studying EBacc subjects should not be exaggerated.
Source: Incentivising specific combinations of subjects: does it make any difference to university access? (August 2017), CLS working paper 2017/11. Centre for Longitudinal Studies
While numerous studies show positive immediate effects of pre-k (Reception), studies also show that these effects usually fade as soon as kindergarten or first grade (Year 1 and Year 2). To discover if consistency in programming from pre-school to elementary (primary) school can extend these positive effects, Virginia Knechtel and colleagues at Mathematica Policy Research (MPR) recently performed the first randomised study of the effectiveness of The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) pre-school on second graders (Year 3) who had continued with the KIPP programme into elementary school.
KIPP is a network of 200 elementary and secondary charter schools serving 80,000 pupils in the US, most of whom are low-income and African American or Latino. Admission to KIPP is via lottery. KIPP schools emphasise academics and character development in safe environments that foster pupils’ progression to further education. As part of an i3 scale-up grant, MPR performed a randomised study on the effects of KIPP on elementary to high school pupils, and found positive, statistically significant effects for KIPP pupils. For the pre-school study, the researchers drew their population sample from pupils in the 2015 study who had started KIPP in pre-K (n=97), comparing them to pupils who did not win the KIPP lottery and attended other schools (n=147). At the end of second grade (Year 3), when most pupils had attended KIPP for five years, both reading and maths scores were higher on subtests of the Woodcock-Johnson for KIPP pupils than for control pupils (ES=+0.43 on Letter Word ID, +0.21 for Passage Comprehension, +0.34 for Applied Problems and +0.31 for Calculation). This is not a lasting effect of pre-k, but the cumulative impact of everything KIPP schools did in grades pre-K-2 (Reception to Year 3).
Authors interviewed school staff and identified six key factors that differed between KIPP and non-KIPP programmes. These included that the schools’ structures allow for continuity among year groups, KIPP pre-K is academically focused, and there is a conscious effort to build relationships between school staff and pupils’ families.
Source: Pre-kindergarten impacts over time: An analysis of KIPP charter schools (August 2017), Mathematica Policy Research
The evidence of the effects of state-funded pre-kindergarten (preschool) programmes in the US was recently reviewed by a task force of scientists from the Brookings Institute and Duke University. These findings were released in a report called “The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects”. Following the evidence review, the task force released a consensus statement outlining conclusions and recommendations about the effects of state-funded pre-kindergarten. According to the report:
- Greatest improvements at the end of the pre-kindergarten year are more often found for pupils from low-SES backgrounds or who are dual language learners than for their higher-SES and English-proficient peers.
- Not all pre-k programmes are equally effective, and this may be influenced by several factors. Positive influences include using evidence-based programmes that are well-implemented; utilising ongoing professional development and coaching for teachers; and promoting classrooms with predictable routines and positive, supportive pupil-teacher relationships.
- Pre-k environments are most effective when pupils’ individual abilities, knowledge and backgrounds are considered, and teaching strategies and content accordingly adjusted.
- Children who attend pre-k demonstrate more school readiness at the end of the year than those who do not, especially in the areas of literacy and numeracy.
- Long-term effects of pre-k in the later elementary (primary)years are inconclusive.
- More complete and reliable evidence is needed, during and after pre-k programmes, to create and sustain pre-kindergartners’ long-term gains.
The full report goes into more detail about the consensus statements, and discusses the results of the evidence with regards to funding, policy and other considerations.
Source: Puzzling it out: The current state of scientific knowledge on pre-kindergarten effects: A consensus statement (April 2017), Duke Center for Child and Family Policy, The Brookings Institution
Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) has released findings from a new study on school closures. The report, authored by Chunping Han and colleagues, systematically examines closure of low-performing charter and traditional public schools (TPS) in the US. A main goal of the study was to see whether children whose schools had been closed for poor performance do better or worse in their new schools.
The authors used existing longitudinally linked data that CREDO had developed in partnership with 26 state education agencies. They identified low-performing, full-time, regular (non-alternative) schools and closures in those 26 states from academic year 2006-07 to 2012-13. A total of 1,522 low-performing schools, including 1,204 TPS and 318 charters, were closed in the 26 states during the study period. To measure academic performance across the low-performing schools, the authors used scores from state standardised achievement tests.
Key findings of the study included:
- A little less than half of displaced closure pupils landed in better schools.
- In both the charter and traditional public school sectors, low-performing schools with a larger share of black and Hispanic pupils were more likely to be closed than similarly performing schools with a smaller share of disadvantaged minority pupils.
- The quality of the receiving school made a significant difference in post-closure pupil outcomes. Closure pupils who attended better schools post-closure tended to make greater academic gains than did their peers from not-closed low-performing schools in the same sector, while those ending up in worse or equivalent schools had weaker academic growth than their peers in comparable low-performing settings.
Source: Lights off: Practice and impact of closing low-performing schools (August 2017), Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO)
A multi-year scale-up study has examined the effectiveness of Open Court Reading (OCR), a phonics-based curriculum for grades K-6 (Reception to Year 7).
The study, by Michael Vaden-Kiernar and colleagues, and published in the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, was a school-level, cluster randomised trial, involving around 4,500 pupils and 1,000 teachers in 49 elementary schools across the US.
The OCR curriculum includes pupil materials, teacher manuals, diagnostic and assessment tools and test preparation practice guides. In all grades (K-5), the instructional format is a three-part lesson with specific instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics, vocabulary and comprehension skills and writing skills. The programme includes one- or two-day summer workshops at the start of each school year to train teachers on programme implementation, and ongoing support by OCR reading consultants.
An implementation study showed adequate to high levels of fidelity to the programme. However, there were no statistically significant effects on reading performance in Year 1, and a small negative effect (effect size = -0.09) in Year 2. Relative to the “business-as-usual” controls, no positive overall impacts of OCR and mixed impacts for pupil subgroups were found.
Source: Findings from a multiyear scale-Up effectiveness trial of Open Court Reading (June 2017), Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness
School-based mental health programmes are now delivered to millions of children, particularly in high-income countries.
J Michael Murphy and colleagues have published a review of those programmes that reach the largest populations. In an article for the Harvard Review of Psychiatry, they profile eight programmes that have shown their effectiveness using randomised controlled trials or quasi-experimental studies. Most of the programmes focus on primary prevention or target specific vulnerable populations, rather than being aimed at supporting children with diagnosed disorders.
For each of the programmes, there is a description of its approach and a review of the supporting evidence. The eight programmes are:
- Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports
- Positive Action
- Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS)
- Skills for Life
- Good Behavior Game
- Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools
Between them, the programmes have reached more than 25 million children, although the authors point out that these have mainly been in high-income countries. There is limited evidence that these programmes could be implemented at scale in low- and middle-income countries.
The authors suggest that, with the growing availability and diversity of programmes, greater attention can now be paid to assessing the processes and practices of implementation that are associated with successful, widely disseminated and sustainable programmes.
Source: Scope, scale, and dose of the world’s largest school-based mental health programs (August 2017), Harvard Review of Psychiatry