Preschool language skills a predictor of later reading comprehension

Preschool language skills a predictor of later reading comprehension

A systematic review published by the Campbell Collaboration summarizes the research on the correlation between reading-related preschool predictors, such as code-related skills  and linguistic comprehension, and later reading comprehension skills.

Sixty-four longitudinal studies met the eligibility criteria for the review. These studies spanned 1986 to 2016 and were mostly carried out in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. Overall, the findings of the review found that code-related skills (rhyme awareness, phoneme awareness, letter knowledge, and rapid automatized naming) are most important for reading comprehension in beginning readers, but linguistic comprehension (grammar and vocabulary) gradually takes over as children become older. All predictors, except for non-word repetition, were moderately to strongly correlated with later reading comprehension. Non-word repetition had only a weak to moderate correlation to later reading comprehension ability.

These results suggest a need for a broad focus on language skills in preschool-age children in order to establish a strong foundation for reading comprehension.

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The long-term impact of effective teaching

The long-term impact of effective teaching

Peter Tymms and colleagues at Durham University’s Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring conducted a study of 40,000 children in England to examine what impact effective teaching in the first year of school has on achievement at the end of compulsory teaching at age 16.

Children’s early reading and math development were measured at the start of school, at age four, using the Performance Indicators in Primary Schools (PIPS) assessments. They were assessed again at the end of their first school year and at ages 7, 11 and 16. By assessing children at the beginning and end of their first year, the researchers were able to identify effective classes – defined as a class where children made much larger than average gains from ages 4 to 5, controlling for pretests and deprivation.

The study, published in School Effectiveness and School Improvement, found  that children who were taught well in their first year of school went on to achieve better GCSE results in English and math at age 16 (effect size = +0.2). Long-term benefits in achievement were also reported for those children who were in effective classes in Key Stages 1 and 2, however, these were not as large as those seen in the first year of school.

The study concludes that the first year of school presents an important opportunity to have a positive impact on children’s long-term academic outcomes.

What is the impact of pay-for-performance?

What is the impact of pay-for-performance?

Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grants were awarded in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Education to support performance-based compensation systems for teachers and principals in high-need schools.

In order to assess the impacts of pay-for-performance on educator (teachers and principals) and student outcomes, an experimental study design was used in ten school districts to randomly assign elementary and middle schools to treatment and control groups. Both groups implemented the same performance-based compensation system, but in the control schools, the pay-for-performance element was replaced by a one percent bonus paid to all teachers and principals regardless of performance. A fourth and final report from this evaluation has now been published, covering all four years of the program (between 2011 and 2015).

Among the key findings are that pay-for-performance had small, positive impacts on student achievement by the second year of implementation. From that year onward, reading and math achievement was higher by 1 to 2 percentile points in schools that offered performance bonuses than in schools that did not. However, it was not entirely clear how this improvement was achieved. The impacts of pay-for-performance on classroom observation ratings did not appear to explain the impacts on student achievement, and in treatment schools as many as 40% of teachers were unaware that they could earn a performance bonus.

A thirty-year look at studies on computer-assisted math

A thirty-year look at studies on computer-assisted math

During the past 30 years, thousands of articles have been written about technology’s effects on student achievement. In order to quantify technology’s effects on math achievement, Jamaal Young at the University of Texas conducted a meta-analysis of all of the meta-analyses on the topic during the last three decades. His second-order meta-analysis was comprised of 19 meta-analyses representing 663 primary studies, more than 141,000 students, and 1,263 effect sizes. Each meta-analysis that was included had to address the use of technology as a supplement to instruction, use student math achievement as an outcome measure, report an effect size or enough data to calculate one, have been published after 1985, and be accessible to the public.

The author found that all technology enhancements positively affected student achievement, regardless of the technology’s purpose. However, technology that helped students perform computational functions had the greatest effects on student achievement, while combinations of enhancements demonstrated the least effects on student achievement. The author found that study quality and the type of technology used in the classroom were the main influencers on effect sizes. The highest-quality studies had the lowest effect sizes, which he attributes to their more rigorous analysis procedures. The high-quality reviews gave an overall effect size for the use of technology of +0.16 (compared with +0.38 for low- and +0.46 for medium-quality  reviews).

What’s the latest on Vision for Baltimore?

What’s the latest on Vision for Baltimore?

Johns Hopkins recently posted an article about our center’s Vision for Baltimore study, which we are conducting in partnership with the Wilmer Eye Institute. The article, A study linking eyeglass use to improved reading ability expands beyond Baltimore, starts off: “Could a missing link in the educational chain for low-income students be a pair of eyeglasses?”

The author, Kristin Hanson, spoke with assistant professor of ophthalmology Megan Collins and Robert Slavin, director of our Center for Research and Reform in Education, for an update on the work. They discuss key findings to date and expansion of the study to Chicago. Slavin says, “An important aspect to note is that both Vision for Baltimore and Vision for Chicago are giant, randomized experiments — and that means they’re the quality of the best medical research. At the end of this, we should have rather definitive information about how much of a difference this kind of intervention can make. We’re documenting all the procedures we’ve followed. This isn’t just a good public policy story, or a heart-rending story — this is good science.”

Evidence on the long-term effects of home visiting programs

Evidence on the long-term effects of home visiting programs

Children from low-income families are more likely than those from higher-income families to have poor social, emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and health outcomes. One approach that has helped parents and their young children is home visiting, which provides information, resources, and support to expectant parents and families with young children.

This MDRC brief summarizes prior evidence on the effects of four evidence-based models of home visiting using information from seven studies of families with children ages 5 to 21. Specifically, the brief looks at what the effects of home visiting are for families as children get older, and how monetary benefits of home visiting compare with their costs.

The key findings of the briefing report include:

  • Evidence-based home visiting has improved outcomes for parents and children across a wide range of child ages, outcome areas, and national models
  • Evidence-based home visiting appears to be cost-effective in the long term
  • The largest benefits from evidence-based home visiting come through reduced spending on government programs and increased individual earnings

The information in this brief will inform the design of a study to assess the long-term effects of home visiting. It will suggest where this long-term follow-up study can seek to replicate prior results, where it can try to fill gaps in current knowledge, and which outcomes are important to measure in order to assess the benefits and costs of home visiting.

Disseminating research to make a difference in classrooms

Disseminating research to make a difference in classrooms

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) in the UK has published the results of its Literacy Octopus trials, named after their multi-armed design, which looked at the impact of research dissemination on achievement in schools.

More than 13,000 primary schools across England were involved in the trials (823 schools in the first trial and 12,500 in the second trial), which drew on a wide range of evidence-based resources and events designed to support the teaching and learning of literacy at Key Stage 2 (grades 2–5). These included printed and online research summaries (including this Best Evidence in Brief e-newsletter), evidence-based practice guides, webinars, face-to-face PD events, and access to online tools.

The first trial tested whether sending schools high-quality evidence-based resources in a range of different formats could have an impact on student outcomes. The second trial tested whether combining the provision of resources with “light-touch” support on how to use them would have greater impact. Some schools were simply sent evidence-based resources, while others received the resources along with simple additional support, such as invites to seminars on applying the resources in the classroom. As well as student outcomes, this trial also measured teachers’ use of research to measure the impact on teacher behavior.

Neither of the Literacy Octopus trials found evidence of improved literacy achievement at Key Stage 2 for students whose teachers took part in the trials compared with the control group. The second trial found no increase in teachers’ use of, or engagement with, research. The results suggest that, in general, light-touch interventions and resources alone are unlikely to make a difference.