Good schools make a difference

A new article, published online in Urban Education, looks at the impact of family, school, and neighbourhood contextual characteristics on the outcomes of children growing up in poverty. Using data on 424 children from seven schools in deprived areas of Chicago, the authors examined four school performance outcomes including children’s maths and reading levels, grades repeated, and behavioural problems. They conclude that the study validates the impact of poverty and other adversities on a child’s school achievement and behaviours.

They found negative associations at the family level; for example, household size and household adversity were significantly associated with the increased probability of repeating a grade, and children not living with their fathers were more likely to repeat a grade or have behavioural problems. There were also negative associations at a community level; for example, low neighbourhood education levels were negatively associated with children’s maths and reading scores.

However, children enrolled in high-performing schools had higher reading scores and higher maths scores compared with those from mid/low-performing schools. The authors suggest that interventions aiming to improve the quality of schools may mediate the negative effects of individual and neighbourhood disadvantages on children’s school performance.

Source: School and Behavioral Outcomes Among Inner City Children: Five-Year Follow-Up (2013), Urban Education.

Staying on track – how ability grouping determines future earnings

When children start school in the US, they are often divided into ability groups, and by high school this trend is formalised further, as pupils are directed onto different “tracks”. In theory, pupils are placed on tracks in order to maximise their achievement by grouping them based on ability or college orientation. Researchers have previously found that these tracks offer uneven opportunities for further achievement and success in college.

A study in Urban Education has shown how this effect persists into adulthood. The study examined the link between tracking in high school and salary income for young adults and whether these effects vary by the individual’s gender and race. Using data from the US National Education Longitudinal Study, the researchers found that educational tracking is associated with future income, independent of the quantity of education that individuals receive. The researchers suggest that it is important to inform educators, as well as parents and young people, on the long-term implications of track placement to ensure that they understand the ramifications of tracking decisions.

Source: Tracking success: High school curricula and labor market outcomes by race and gender (2012), Urban Education47(6)

How parental involvement affects a child’s academic performance

This meta-analysis published in Urban Education;examines the relationship between school-based parental involvement programmes and the academic achievement of children aged four to 18. Findings of the study indicate that overall there is a significant relationship between parental involvement programmes and academic outcomes, but that further research is needed to examine why some types of programmes have a greater impact on educational achievement than others.

The types of parental involvement programmes examined are:

  • Shared reading programmes, which show the strongest relationship with improvement in educational outcomes (effect size = .51, p< .01).
  • Emphasised partnership programmes, which involve parents and teachers working together as equal partners to help improve pupils’ academic or behavioural outcomes. This type of programme has the second largest effect size on educational outcomes (ES=.35, p< .05).
  • Communication between parents and teachers has an effect size of .28 (p< .05).
    Checking homework produced the smallest effect size of the four programmes (ES=.27, p< .05).

A 2008 meta-analysis, published in the Review of Educational Research, found similar results. Parents who taught their children to read had a much larger impact than those that only listened to their children reading; suggesting that giving parents practical means of helping their children succeed in school is important in improving their children’s achievement.

Sources:A meta-analysis of the efficacy of different types of parental involvement programs for urban students (2012), Urban Education , 47(4),

The effect of family literacy interventions on children’s acquisition of reading from kindergarten to grade 3: A meta-analytic review (2008), Review of Educational Research, 78(4)