Evaluating New York City’s small schools of choice

The latest findings have been published of a rigorous study on the effectiveness of 105 “small schools of choice” (SSCs) in New York City. These academically nonselective schools, each with approximately 100 students per year in grades 9 to 12 (age 14–18), were created to serve some of the district’s most disadvantaged students. They are located mainly in areas where large failing high schools had been closed. According to MDRC, which carried out the research, the schools emphasise academic rigour and strong and sustained personal relationships among students and faculty. In addition, most were founded with community partners who offer additional teaching support and resources, and provide students with additional learning opportunities.

A 2010 study showed that SSCs are markedly improving academic progress and graduation prospects for their students. In this new policy brief, the analysis is extended by a year, and shows that SSCs have positive and sustained impacts on graduation rates, as well as a positive effect on a measure of college readiness.

Source: Transforming the high school experience: How New York City’s new small schools are boosting student achievement and graduation rates (2010), MDRC

Evaluating reading coach quality

A study from the RAND Corporation examines what makes for good reading coaches and coaching. The study included 113 schools from 8 districts in Florida. All used reading coaches to work with school staff to improve their reading teaching and leadership skills. The data showed no relationship between teacher and principal perceptions of coach quality and students’ reading achievement.

The researchers suggest that being an effective literacy coach may require more than content-area expertise and experience teaching children. They identify “understanding how to support adult learners” as a key area of expertise that was sometimes lacking with the coaches in the study.

Source: Reading Coach Quality: Findings from Florida Middle Schools (2012), Literacy Research and Instruction, 51(1).

Good teachers get results

Everyone knows that a good teacher makes a difference, but establishing who the good teachers are, and what difference they make, has long been a problem. A new study by economists at Harvard University attempts to answer these questions. They analysed the school records and earnings information for 2.5 million children, and found that, when a high “value added” teacher joins a new school, results for their class improve.

Having a high value-added teacher (in the top 5%) for one year raises a child’s cumulative lifetime income by $50,000. How this information is used is clearly a matter of policy, but any system that aims to reward good performance while supporting or punishing poor performance would need to be carefully designed and tested. An interesting article about the study can be found here.

Source: The long-term impacts of teachers: teacher value-added and student outcomes in adulthood (2011), American Economic Review 

UK disappoints on social mobility

A report by the Sutton Trust, which compared social mobility in several countries, found that the UK performs poorly.

The key findings of the report were that:

  • Gaps in school readiness in England between disadvantaged children and their counterparts were wider than in similar countries, such as Canada and Australia, but narrower than the United States.
  • Formal preschool education can have lasting effects in reducing the educational gap between high and low income children.
  • Disparities in early child outcomes persist into adolescence.
  • Unlike other countries, the achievement gap in England actually widens in secondary school.
  • None of the countries in the study reduce the disparity as children age.

The report concludes that addressing the social stratification in secondary schools remains one of the key challenges for improving social mobility in the UK.

Source: Latest research report: what prospects for mobility in the UK? A cross-national study of educational inequalities and their implications for future education and earnings mobility (2011), Sutton Trust