What makes for an effective summer reading programme?

This study from the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences tested the effectiveness of a summer reading programme on improving reading comprehension for disadvantaged Grade 3 pupils (age 8–9) reading below the 50th percentile. As part of the programme, children were sent a single delivery of eight books matched to their reading level and interest area during the first part of the summer. The delivery was followed by six weekly reminder postcards.

Findings showed that the summer reading programme did not have a statistically significant impact on pupil reading comprehension. However, the authors note that the study’s conclusions are constrained by several aspects of the programme’s design, including that the programme lasted just one summer and did not include teacher instruction and parent involvement. In previous studies, programmes with these components were found to be effective.

Source: Does a summer reading program based on Lexiles affect reading comprehension? (2012), Institute of Education Sciences

Professional development and high-stakes testing

This study, published in the International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, examines the relationship between primary teacher participation in a multi-year professional development (CPD) effort and “high stakes” science test scores. 

A total of 1,269 US primary school teachers participated in the CPD programme, which utilised regional summer workshops and distance education to help the teachers learn science concepts, inquiry teaching strategies, and how to adapt science inquiry lessons to teach and reinforce skills in English lessons. Findings of the study showed that there was a significant positive relationship between the CPD hours experienced by the teachers and pupil gains.

Source: How much professional development is needed to effect positive gains in K-6 student achievement on high stakes science tests? (2012), International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 10(1)

What does the latest research say about head teachers?

This research brief from the RAND Corporation presents a summary of research on first-year principals’ (head teachers in the UK) experiences, actions, working conditions, and outcomes. It was created to inform efforts to promote school improvement and principal retention. To complete their study, RAND researchers looked at the experiences of first-year principals in six districts across the US. Findings included:

  • More than a fifth of first-year principals left their school within two years;
  • Schools that lost a principal after one year underperformed the following year;
  • The quality of principals’ actions was more relevant to outcomes than the amount of time devoted to the actions;
  • Greater teacher capacity and cohesiveness were related to better pupil outcomes; and
  • Principals’ personnel management skills are important.

Source: Challenges and opportunities facing principals in the first year at a school (2012), RAND Corporation

What works for whole-school reform?

The Consortium on Chicago School Research has released a new report that examines five different reform models initiated by Chicago Public Schools in 36 primary and secondary schools identified as chronically low performing. The reform models, implemented between 1997 and 2010, involved strategies such as staff replacement, leadership replacement, governance replacement, and change in attendance rules (see Table 1 on page 3 of the report for specific models and their key elements).

Findings showed that primary and middle schools (lower-secondary age) that were part of the turnaround effort made significant improvements in test scores compared with similar schools that did not; however, large improvements did not occur immediately in the first year. In contrast secondary schools that underwent reform did not show significant improvements in absences, or percentages of ninth grade pupils (Year 10) considered “on track to graduate” over matched comparison schools.

Source: Turning around low-performing schools in Chicago: Summary Report (2012), The University of Chicago

Writing about reading makes a difference

A recent meta-analysis from the Harvard Education Review has shown that writing about something they have read improves pupils’ understanding of the text, as well as their reading fluency and word reading.

To reach this conclusion, the authors reviewed findings from 92 studies on the topic. They focused on studies that had an experimental or quasi-experimental design; involved a treatment group that wrote about what they read, were taught to write, or increased how much they wrote; and included at least one reading measure that assessed the impact of the writing treatment or condition.

Source: Writing to Read: A meta-analysis of the impact of writing and writing instruction on reading (2011), Harvard Educational Review, 81(4)

Sleep and test scores: Is there a connection?

new study has concluded that there is an optimum amount of time for children and young people to sleep in terms of how well they perform in school, and more is not necessarily better. The research, published in the Eastern Economic Journal, used data from 1,724 primary and secondary pupils to explore the relationship between sleep and performance on standardised tests. 

Findings showed a statistically significant relationship between the two, with the most beneficial amount of time varying by age. This ranged from 9-9.5 hours for 10-year-olds to 7 hours for 16-year-olds.

Source: Sleep and Student Achievement (2012), Eastern Economic Journal,38(33).