Examining computer access for students across the nation

Examining computer access for students across the nation

A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics examines students’ access to computers at home and in school, and students’ use of computers for classroom learning at grades 4, 8, and 12. Associations between students’ computer access and use and student performance on the 2015 NAEP mathematics and reading assessments are also examined.

As part of the 2015 NAEP assessments, students answered a survey question about their access to computers at home, and teachers answered a survey question about the availability of computers for them and their students in school. Students and teachers also answered questions about their use of computers for classroom learning and instruction. NAEP is given to a representative sample of students across the country, and results are reported for groups of students with similar characteristics.

Key findings from the report included:

  • Computer access is divided along socioeconomic lines. Smaller percentages of lower income students reported having computer access at home in comparison to middle-to-higher income students.
  • Lower- and higher-performing students differ in how often they use computers for practicing and building academic skills in the classroom. For example, compared to higher-performing fourth-grade students, larger percentages of lower-performing students had teachers who reported that they never or hardly ever used computers in class to practice and review mathematics topics or to extend their mathematics learning with enrichment activities.
  • Computer use once or twice a week increased by as much as 5 percentage points in mathematics classes and 6 percentage points in reading classes between 2013 and 2015.
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The positive influence of classmates’ behavior

The positive influence of classmates’ behavior

Prior research has indicated that an individual adolescent’s behavior is influenced by the behavior of his or her classmates. But while most studies have focused on negative peer influence, a study published in Journal of Adolescence investigates whether individual anti-social behaviors in adolescents can potentially be reduced by promoting prosocial behavior at the classroom level.

In order to determine whether classmates’ prosocial behavior is related to lower anti-social behavior of students, Verena Hofmann and Christoph Michael Müller conducted a longitudinal study among lower secondary school students in Switzerland (mean age = 13.8 years). The sample included 55 classrooms in eight schools, and the researchers analyzed data collected at the end of Grade 7, Grade 8, and Grade 9. Participants completed self-reported assessments on prosocial behavior, anti-social behavior, and anti-social attitudes. Classmates’ pro- and anti-social behavior for each student was calculated by averaging all students’ scores in a class, excluding the students’ own score.

While children generally developed more anti-social behavior over time, particularly those who had higher initial levels of anti-social behavior, results indicated that more prosocial behavior among classmates predicted lower levels of individual anti-social behavior and anti-social attitudes in the future.

The impact of full-day preschool on children’s school readiness skills

The impact of full-day preschool on children’s school readiness skills

An EdPolicy Works working paper reports on a randomized controlled trial of the effects of full- versus half-day preschool on children’s school readiness.

Four-year-old children in a school district near Denver were randomly assigned to either half-day (n=112) or full-day (n=114) preschool classrooms. To examine the impact on children’s outcomes, Allison Atteberry and colleagues assessed children’s receptive vocabulary skills using a standardized test in which children point to one of four pictures that best corresponds to a spoken word. The researchers also administered a developmental screening tool to assess children’s developmental abilities in relation to school readiness. Both assessments were conducted within the first month of the first term, and again in the last month of the last term.

Their results showed that full-day preschool had positive effects on children’s vocabulary skills (+0.27 standard deviations) by the end of the school year. Positive impacts were also indicated on cognition, literacy, math, and physical skills – ranging in effect sizes from +0.19 to +0.39.

Effects of the Whole School Restorative Justice Program

Effects of the Whole School Restorative Justice Program

Restorative approaches are practices aimed at making peace, preventing further harm, and building community. The Whole School Restorative Justice Program (WSRJ) is designed to promote these practices in the school setting. It uses multi-level strategies to provide an alternative to zero-tolerance approaches, which have raised suspension rates nationally, especially among minority youth. Tier 1 is regular classroom circles, Tier 2 is repair harm/conflict circles, and Tier 3 includes mediation, family group conferencing, and welcome/re-entry circles to initiate successful re-integration of students being released from juvenile detention centers.

A three-year matched study compared Oakland, CA schools participating in WSRJ to similar schools that did not. In WSRJ schools, suspensions were cut in half (34% to 14%). This was significantly more than the change seen in non-RJ schools (p<.05). Chronic absences diminished in WSRJ middle and high schools, while increasing in non-WSRJ middle and high schools. The middle school differences were highly significant (p<.001). Reading levels for ninth graders increased more in WSRJ schools than in non-WSRJ schools, and four-year graduation rates gained significantly more.

Effects of shared book reading for young ELL children

Effects of shared book reading for young ELL children

A meta-analysis, published in Review of Educational Research, examines how shared book reading affects the English language and literacy skills of young English Language Learners (ELLs).

Shared book reading involves an adult reading with one or more children, and is considered to be an effective practice for language and literacy development. It may also involve interactive practices such as dialogic reading techniques to engage children or reinforce specific ideas or words from the text.

For this meta-analysis, Lisa Fitton and colleagues identified 54 studies of shared reading interventions conducted in the U.S. that met their inclusion criteria. The total number of participants across the studies was 3,989, with an average age of six.

Results revealed an overall positive effect of shared reading on ELL outcomes (effect size = +0.28). Children’s developmental status moderated this effect, with larger effect sizes found in studies including only typically developing children (+0.48) than in studies including only participants with developmental disorders (+0.17).

Grouping students by achievement

Grouping students by achievement

The Education Endowment Foundation in the UK has published an evaluation of two trials of programs developed by the University College-London (UCL) Institute of Education investigating approaches to grouping students: Best Practice in Setting and Best Practice in Mixed Attainment Grouping.

The main trial, “Best Practice in Setting,” tested an intervention that aimed to get schools to improve their setting practice (grouping students in classes by their current achievement levels). A total of 127 schools took part in the trial, which ran over the course of two academic years. Teachers were randomly allocated to sets to prevent “lower” sets from being disproportionately assigned less-experienced teachers, while students in Years 7 and 8 (grades 6 and 7 in the U.S.) were assigned to sets based on independent measures of achievement, rather than more subjective judgements such as behavior and peer interactions. There were opportunities throughout the year to re-assign students to different sets based on their current level of achievement.

The evaluation found no evidence that the intervention improves outcomes in math (effect size = -0.01) or English (effect size = -0.08). The process evaluation revealed mixed views from participants, and many interviewees thought that what they were being asked to do represented little change from what they already do.

The researchers noted that because school and teacher buy-in was low and attrition rates for follow-up testing were high, half of the schools in the math trial and more than half of the schools in the English trial stopped the intervention before follow-up, and this makes it difficult to conclude anything certain about the impact of Best Practice in Setting.

Findings from an evaluation of Thinking Maths

Findings from an evaluation of Thinking Maths

Evidence for Learning in Australia has published an evaluation of Thinking Maths, a professional learning program for math teachers to support students’ math learning during the transition between primary and secondary school (currently Year 7 and Year 8 in South Australia).

The evaluation involved 158 schools in South Australia, which were randomly assigned to the intervention (63 schools) or the control group (104 schools). Teachers participated in 30 hours of face-to-face professional learning delivered at 4–5 week intervals over three school terms. The program focuses on three areas for better teaching and learning of mathematics: (a) using quality task design, (b) sequencing a conceptual development, and (c) using research-informed effective pedagogies.

Students whose teachers received Thinking Maths made additional progress in math when compared to business-as-usual math classes (effect size = +0.05). However, there were differences between primary and secondary school students: the effect size for secondary students (Years 8–10) was -0.16, whereas the effect size for primary students (Years 5–7) was +0.14.