What are the effects of a technology-based algebra curriculum?

This working paper from the RAND Corporation examines the effectiveness of Cognitive Tutor Algebra I (CTAI), a technology-based algebra course designed for pupils at a variety of ability and year levels. The curriculum includes traditional textbook and workbook materials along with automated tutoring software that provides self-paced individualised tuition and attempts to bring pupils to mastery of a topic before they progress further.

Schools participating in the study were matched into similar pairs and randomly assigned to either continue with their current algebra curriculum for two years or to adopt CTAI. The sample included 73 high schools and 74 middle schools in seven US states.

Analysis of post-test outcomes on an algebra proficiency exam found no effects in the first year of implementation, but strong evidence in support of a positive effect in the second year. The estimated effect is statistically significant for high schools but not for middle schools. The authors report that in both cases, the magnitude is sufficient to improve the average pupil’s performance by approximately eight percentile points.

Source: Effectiveness of Cognitive Tutor Algebra I at Scale (2013), RAND Education.

Updated evidence report on Reading Recovery

An updated report from the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) provides new information on the effectiveness of Reading Recovery for beginning readers. Reading Recovery is a supplemental programme that provides one-to-one tutoring to children aged five or six. It aims to promote literacy skills and foster the development of reading and writing strategies by tailoring individualised lessons to each child. The WWC found that Reading Recovery has positive effects on general reading achievement and potentially positive effects on alphabetics, reading fluency, and comprehension for beginning readers.

Robert Slavin, a Professor in the IEE, published a recent blog post on Reading Recovery. In it, Jerry D’Agostino, director of Reading Recovery’s i3 project, explains how Reading Recovery has dealt with the challenge of long-term sustainability.

Mixed results for maths and science programmes

New reports from the US What Works Clearinghouse review the research on three programmes designed to improve pupil achievement in maths and science. Findings were as follows:

  • Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies, a peer-tutoring programme for primary pupils that aims to improve pupil proficiency in maths and other disciplines, was found to have no discernible effects on mathematics achievement.
  • Carnegie Learning Curricula and Cognitive Tutor, a secondary maths curriculum that offers textbooks and interactive software to provide individualised, self-paced teaching based on pupil needs, was found to have mixed effects on mathematics achievement.
  • GEMS The Real Reasons for Seasons, a curriculum unit for pupils aged 11–14 that focuses on the connections between the Sun and the Earth to teach the scientific concepts behind the seasons, was found to have potentially negative effects on general science achievement.

Sources: Peer-assisted learning strategies (2013), What Works Clearinghouse
Cognitive learning curricula and cognitive tutor (2012), What Works Clearinghouse
Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS) The Real Reasons for Seasons (2013), What Works Clearinghouse