The effect of Professional Learning Teams on student achievement

A new study of Professional Learning Teams has shown that they may lead to improved student retention and grades. Professional Learning Teams are small groups of teachers who actively collaborate, share expertise, improve their skills, examine and use various forms of data, and learn from each other—all for the purpose of improved pupil learning. They were introduced systematically in five counties in North Carolina in 2003.

The study showed that schools that used Professional Learning Teams the most had greater decreases in pupil retention rates (the number of pupils held back each year) than those with lower implementation. The same was true for increasing test results, although this was not statistically significant.

Source: Wake County public school system (WCPSS) Professional Learning Teams (PLTs): 2010-11 to 2011-12 school-based policy study (2012), Wake County Public School System

Social-emotional learning for preschool children

This study from the Early Childhood Education Journal looks at the effects of an SEL curriculum on the social and emotional competence of preschool pupils. Participating teachers and pupils were assigned to either a treatment group or a control group. In the treatment group, Strong Start Pre-K was implemented, a programme that covers specific objectives and goals that help to prevent emotional and mental health problems; optional booster lessons are included to reinforce skills. In the control group, Strong Start Pre-K was not implemented.

The study showed a significant decrease in internalising behaviours and more improvement in the pupil–teacher relationship in the treatment group. The results also supported the use of the optional booster lessons.

To learn more about effective approaches to social-emotional learning, see “Social and emotional learning programmes that work”, an article from a recent issue of Better: Evidence-based Education magazine.

Source: Promoting social and emotional learning in preschool students: A study of strong start pre-k (2012), Early Childhood Education Journal, 40(3)

Do pupils whose second language is English affect native English speakers?

The percentage of primary school children in England who do not speak English as their first language has risen by a third to 12% over the last 10 years. This has led to concern from some that it could be having a negative impact on native English speakers’ achievement because teachers’ time would be taken up helping pupils whose second language is English. However, according to a study from the Centre for the Economics of Education, this concern is unnecessary.

The research used data from the National Pupil Database to explore the correlation between the proportion of non-native English speakers in a year group and educational attainment of native English speakers at the end of primary school. A second approach looked specifically at evidence from Catholic schools attended by the children of Polish immigrants. The results of both approaches suggest that there were no negative effects of pupils whose second language is English on the educational attainment of native English speakers.

Source: Non-native speakers of English in the classroom: What are the effects on pupil performance? (2012), Centre for the Economics of Education

How does the social attainment gap in England compare with other countries?

Using findings from an OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) study on the impact of socio-economic background on pupil performance this report from the Department for Education summarises how the social attainment gap in England compares with other countries.

It looks at:

  • How the OECD measure pupils’ socio-economic backgrounds in PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment);
  • The distribution of pupil attainment in England and how this compares with countries internationally;
  • The association between pupils’ socio-economic backgrounds and attainment in England and how this compares with countries internationally;
  • How social gaps reported in PISA compare to the gap reported between pupils known to be eligible for free school meals and their peers in England; and
  • How average attainment reported by PISA is affected when we control for pupil background.

One of the findings of the report is that England is not the only country in which socio-economic status has a high impact on attainment. This is also true for some high-performing PISA participants, in particular, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, and Belgium.

Source: PISA 2009: how does the social attainment gap in England compare with countries internationally? (2012), Department for Education

How to decide on an evidence-based approach for your school

In this article from Better: Evidence-based Education magazine, David Andrews, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Education, describes a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis that educators can use when deciding whether to implement an evidence-based approach.

He says, “Adopting and implementing an evidence-based approach requires faith in the presented evidence, followed by a commitment to the appropriate implementation fidelity. Understanding the depth of the commitment required will determine whether or not the approach ‘works’ in specific settings for specific educators and their students. Consequently, educators must evaluate the feasibility of the fidelity that is required to get the desired outcome”.

The next issue of Better: Evidence-based Education magazine, published in June, focuses on “Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds”. Articles include:

  • Sport and educational achievement;
  • Mindful yoga for urban youth; and
  • How does sleep affect academic performance?

Source: In search of feasible fidelity (2012), Better: Evidence-based Education

Educational technology and reading achievement

In the last issue of Best Evidence in Brief, we highlighted findings from a review of research into the effects of technology use on mathematics achievement completed by the Johns Hopkins School of Education’s Center for Research and Reform in Education (CRRE). Related to this topic is an updated CRRE review that focuses on the effects of technology use on reading achievement.

Consistent with the technology and maths review, findings on reading technology suggest that educational technology applications produce a positive, though small, effect on achievement in comparison to traditional methods. Showing the most promise were innovative technology applications and integrated literacy interventions with the support of extensive professional development.

Source: The effectiveness of education technology for enhancing maths achievement (2011), Best Evidence Encyclopedia