The 2010 report Mind the (Other) Gap identified large gaps in academic achievement at the top end of the ability distribution in the US (ie, among the most able pupils). A new report has now been published in response to subsequent research, and its authors conclude that there is growing evidence of a permanent “talent underclass”.
Using data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), they examined performance at grades 4 and 8 (Years 5 and 9). They found that the “excellence gaps” among different racial groups, high- and low-socioeconomic status, different levels of English language proficiency, and gender groups have widened.
The problem is particularly pronounced in maths. Between 1996 and 2011, the percentage of White pupils, more-affluent pupils, and English-language speakers scoring at the advanced level in maths increased substantially while the performance of other groups remained relatively stable. In reading, the gap changed little (but remained).
Recommendations in the report include considering the impact new policies will have on the highest-achieving pupils, looking at the size of excellence gaps when test results are released, including the performance of advanced pupils in state accountability systems, acknowledging the role of poverty in widening excellence gaps, and accelerating research in this area.
Source: Talent on the Sidelines: Excellence Gaps and America’s Persistent Talent Underclass (2013), Center for Education Policy Analysis, University of Connecticut.
This article from Learning and Instruction presents findings from a group-randomised trial investigating the effect of Content-Focused Coaching (CFC).
A key element of CFC is “Questioning the Author (QtA)”, a discussion-based approach to reading comprehension. According to the article, QtA encourages teachers and pupils to work together to construct the meaning of a text during the reading process. Teachers strategically pose questions to pupils at key places in a text that promote understanding, interpretation, and elaborated response, and encourage pupils to share and challenge each other’s ideas to grapple with these questions.
Schools assigned to the treatment condition received a CFC-trained coach, and schools in the comparison condition continued with the literacy coaching that was standard practice in their school. The final sample included 29 US schools serving a high proportion of pupils with English as an Additional Language (EAL) and pupils from low-income families.
Findings showed a positive effect of the CFC programme on observed classroom text discussion quality. Findings also showed a positive effect on pupil reading achievement, as measured on a state assessment test, with stronger effects for EAL pupils compared to their English-proficient peers.
The authors note that additional research is needed to examine the effectiveness and feasibility of adopting CFC on a wider scale.
Source: Literacy Coaching to Improve Student Reading Achievement: A Multi-level Mediation Model (2013), Learning and Instruction, 25.
As part of the Better Communication Research Programme, a number of reports have been published on “what works” for children with speech, language, and communication needs. It aims to help commissioners, practitioners, and parents make their own judgments about different programmes. The full list of interventions, and details about the strength of evidence to support them, is available in Technical Annex. A web-based resource is also planned to share the findings.
Of the 57 programmes, three (5%) were found to have a strong level of evidence: Fast Forward, The Lidcombe Program, and Milieu Teaching/Therapy. The authors note that just because evidence is not especially strong for particular programmes does not necessarily mean those interventions are ineffective or lack practical value. It often means that their effectiveness has not been evaluated.
Source: Research at DfE 2013, Department for Education
A report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) looks at the educational achievement of immigrant children and how it can be improved, drawing on results from the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
The report shows that performance gaps between immigrant and non-immigrant pupils vary across countries, and it recognises that integrating immigrant pupil populations poses significant challenges to the quality and equity of schools in OECD countries. It suggests that by reinforcing language-learning policies, ensuring a more balanced social mix in schools, and focusing on content specific to immigrants, schools can improve the educational achievement of immigrant children. However, education policy alone is unlikely to fully address these challenges, and changes to social policy may also be necessary.
Source: PISA – Untapped skills: realising the potential of Immigrant students (2012), PISA
The percentage of primary school children in England who do not speak English as their first language has risen by a third to 12% over the last 10 years. This has led to concern from some that it could be having a negative impact on native English speakers’ achievement because teachers’ time would be taken up helping pupils whose second language is English. However, according to a study from the Centre for the Economics of Education, this concern is unnecessary.
The research used data from the National Pupil Database to explore the correlation between the proportion of non-native English speakers in a year group and educational attainment of native English speakers at the end of primary school. A second approach looked specifically at evidence from Catholic schools attended by the children of Polish immigrants. The results of both approaches suggest that there were no negative effects of pupils whose second language is English on the educational attainment of native English speakers.
Source: Non-native speakers of English in the classroom: What are the effects on pupil performance? (2012), Centre for the Economics of Education
The IEE’s Robert Slavin has taken part in a radio debate in the US about how best to teach pupils with English as an Additional Language. In the US, many pupils receive bilingual teaching and this has attracted the attention of Republican Presidential election candidates.
Source: English Immersion: The Bilingual Education Debate (2013), The Take Away