Identifying students who may drop out

Many schools in the US now use early warning systems to help them identify students at risk of dropping out. Staff then intervene and monitor these at-risk students to try to keep them on course to graduation.

A new guide from the Institute of Education Sciences and REL Northwest reviews studies of these early warning systems. It summarises what is known about promising practices of early dropout warning systems and how schools can apply these research results. The results of several studies are discussed regarding:

  • Creating and training an early warning intervention team;
  • Establishing warning indicators that a student is off track;
  • Designing reports and applying report data;
  • Intervening appropriately with individual students; and
  • Assessing the intervention’s effectiveness and student progress.

Source: A Practitioner’s Guide To Implementing Early Warning Systems (2015), Institute of Education Sciences.

Improving reading outcomes for pupils with or at risk of reading problems

The US Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has released a new synthesis of research on improving reading outcomes for pupils with or at risk of reading problems. The purpose of the review is to describe what has been learned specifically from IES-funded research grants. A total of 111 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters that were products of 48 research projects are examined. A few key findings, which are grouped into four domains, are as follows:

  • Assessment: Screening all children’s reading skills (ie, universal screening) at the beginning of the school year, especially in the early years, can be a valid and efficient process to identify children who are at risk of reading difficulties.
  • Basic cognitive and linguistic processes: Malleable linguistic processes, such as oral language skills and vocabulary, positively predict children’s reading performance.
  • Intervention: Language outcomes for many preschool children at risk for language delays can improve if they are provided extensive opportunities to hear and use complex oral language.
  • Professional development: Developing teachers’ specialised knowledge and supporting consistent long-term implementation of research-based teaching strategies can improve delivery of complex, evidence-based teaching and interventions.

Source: Improving Reading Outcomes for Students with or at Risk for Reading Disabilities: A Synthesis of the Contributions from the Institute of Education Sciences Research Centers (2014), Institute of Education Sciences.

New York Times profiles evidence-based education

The New York Times has published an article on the work of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the rise of evidence-based education.

The institute (an office in the US Education Department), aims to get real data about what works in education, particularly from randomised controlled trials, and shares findings through its What Works Clearinghouse website. Among those interviewed are Robert Slavin, a professor in the IEE (and Director of the Centre for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins School of Education), Peter Tymms from Durham University, and Jon Baron, president of the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy.

The article covers the history of the IES and considers the difficulties of translating the institute’s research into practical change. As Slavin explains in the article “It’s fascinating what a secret this is”. Instead, he says, educators are often “swayed by marketing or anecdotes or the latest fad.” However, he is hopeful of change. Despite little political drive in the US, the Obama administration has said its goal is to enable schools to use programmes that have been proven to work.

What works in the early years?

This synthesis of research from the US Institute of Education Sciences (IES) describes what has been learned from IES-funded research grants on early intervention and early childhood education. Their findings include the following:

  • There are critical associations between features of pre-kindergarten (Reception) classrooms – such as the quality of teacher–child interactions and the nature of teachers’ feedback to children – and children’s outcomes. For instance, the extent to which teachers are observed providing emotional support to children in their classroom is positively associated with children’s growth in social competence.
  • Parents’ and teachers’ support for children’s learning contributes to young children’s outcomes. As an example, one study showed that the extent to which parents were involved in their children’s schooling and their perceptions about their children’s teacher were related to their children’s academic and social competence.
  • Classroom teaching can be improved by providing professional development to teachers. Improvements may be seen in general measures of the teaching environment or in more specific ways, such as teachers’ use of assessment data to design individual teaching plans.

Additional findings are discussed in the full report.

Source: Synthesis of IES Research on Early Intervention and Early Childhood Education (2013), Institute of Education Sciences.

Translating effect sizes for practitioners and policy makers

This report from the Institute of Education Sciences in the US is targeted at researchers who conduct and report on education intervention studies. It aims to help researchers present statistics in ways that allow their size and practical significance to be more readily understood by practitioners, policy makers, and other researchers. Three key issues are addressed:

  • Inappropriate and misleading presentation of the size of intervention effects;
  • Representing effects descriptively; and
  • Assessing the practical significance of intervention effects;

Source: Translating the statistical representation of the effects of education interventions into more readily interpretable forms (2012), Institute of Education Sciences