Category Archives: Education

Does including arts make science more accessible for children who struggle?

This new Johns Hopkins University concludes states that incorporating the arts–rapping, dancing, drawing–into science lessons can help low-achieving students retain more knowledge and possibly help students of all ability levels be more creative in their learning. This study does tick a lot of boxes as it is a randomized controlled trial with a clever design, but I do have some concerns.

What did the different groups had to do?

In the control condition, students displayed knowledge by completing a chart or presenting the information orally, whereas in the arts-integrated treatment condition they displayed knowledge through a variety of arts-based activities such as dance, tableaux, singing, or drawing. In the control condition, students expanded on their understanding of vocabulary by writing a sentence using the target word, whereas in treatment they demonstrated their understanding of the vocabulary by taking visual notes, which entailed drawing sketches and writing notes. To reinforce content, students in the control condition engaged in choral reading of specific passages; in the treatment condition, they sang a song or a chanted a rap. Essentially, we designed conventional lessons to match the modality of presentation of the arts-integrated lessons and the modality of student products. For example, instead of displaying knowledge by designing a collage of living and non-living things, students in the conventional conditional categorized living and non-living things in a simple chart. Students in both conditions displayed their knowledge through categorization of living and non-living things with a final product on paper, but the conventional condition student product was a traditional chart whereas the arts-integrated student product was a categorized collage. In conventional lessons, choral reading of a science text utilizes the same modality as singing, oral production of words while reading the words, but choral reading excludes the artistic factors of tonality, tune, and rhythm. A read-aloud, aka choral reading, of a science text does not include any arts-based activities, which is why we used this matched-modality activity for the delivery of content for conventional lessons when songs were utilized in the arts-integrated condition.

The researchers are a bit too optimistic imho concerning transfer as it’s not significant – and I’ve reviewed a lot of research on this topic not to be surprised -, but they do seem to find a positive effect of incorporating arts for the kids who have just basic reading skills, although the results are a bit mixed when looking at the other students:

This did make me wonder if some other elements can’t explain these results. E.g. if the basis reading group pupils had indeed trouble with reading for learning, the help of making a song or rap song about it, could help them remember stuff that they had trouble to read in the first place?

Examples of activities in the arts-integrated classes include rapping or sketching to learn vocabulary words, and designing collages to separate living and non-living things. These activities were matched in the conventional classrooms with standard activities such as reading paragraphs of texts with vocabulary words aloud in a group and completing worksheets.

But isn’t this a bit of a strange comparison? Reading paragraphs of texts with vocabulary words aloud in groups, well there wasn’t probably much thinking involved. And as Willingham stated ‘Memory is the residue of thought’. The completing worksheets would probably be more about thinking, but the collages were hopefully also.

A big limitation of the study is imho that the teachers teaching the different groups were different. The researchers did try to surpass this:

For example, the Chemistry units were taught by four teachers; two who taught in the arts-integrated condition and two who taught in the control condition in session 1. In session 2, the teachers taught the reversed condition to a different group of randomized students. This was done for all curricular units

But as session 1 seems to have a big impact on the knowledge of session 2, a teacher effect can still be present for sure as the amount of teachers was limited.

So, I do think this is a very interesting study but more research is needed.

From the press release:

Incorporating the arts–rapping, dancing, drawing–into science lessons can help low-achieving students retain more knowledge and possibly help students of all ability levels be more creative in their learning, finds a new study by Johns Hopkins University.

The findings were published on Feb. 7 in Trends in Neuroscience and Education and support broader arts integration in the classroom.

“Our study provides more evidence that the arts are absolutely needed in schools. I hope the findings can assuage concerns that arts-based lessons won’t be as effective in teaching essential skills,” says Mariale Hardiman, vice dean of academic affairs for the School of Education at the Johns Hopkins University and the study’s first author.

While research already shows that the arts improve students’ academic outcomes and memory, it remains unclear whether general exposure to the arts, adding arts to lesson plans, effective instruction, or a combination are responsible for these benefits, says Hardiman.

“When we talk about learning, we have to discuss memory. Children forget much of what they learn and teachers often end up reteaching a lot of content from the previous year. Here we’re asking, how exactly can we teach them correctly to begin with so they can remember more?”

In this study, the research team sought to determine whether an arts-integrated curriculum had any direct effects on learning, specifically students’ memory for science content.

Throughout the 2013 school year, 350 students in 16 fifth grade classrooms across six Baltimore, Maryland schools took part in the study. Students were randomly assigned into one of two classroom pairs: astronomy and life science, or environmental science and chemistry.

The experiment consisted of two sessions, each lasting three to four weeks, in which students first took either an arts-integrated class or a conventional class. In the second session, students received the opposite type of class; thus, all students experienced both types and all eleven teachers taught both types of classes.

Examples of activities in the arts-integrated classes include rapping or sketching to learn vocabulary words, and designing collages to separate living and non-living things. These activities were matched in the conventional classrooms with standard activities such as reading paragraphs of texts with vocabulary words aloud in a group and completing worksheets.

The research team analyzed students’ content retention through pre-, post-, and delayed post-tests 10 weeks after the study ended, and found that students at a basic reading level retained an average 105 percent of the content long term, as demonstrated through the results of delayed post-testing. The researchers discovered that students remembered more in the delayed post-testing because they sang songs they had learned from their arts activities, which helped them remember content better in the long term, much like how catchy pop lyrics seem to get more and more ingrained in your brain over time.

This addresses a key challenge and could be an additional tool to bridging the achievement gap for students who struggle most to read, says Hardiman, because most conventional curriculum requires students to read to learn; if students cannot read well, they cannot learn well.

The research team also found that students who took a conventional session first remembered more science in the second, arts-integrated session and students who took an arts-integrated session first performed just as well in the second session. While not statistically significant, the researchers suggest the possibility of students applying the creative problem-solving skills they learned to their conventional lessons to enhance their learning.

Looking forward, Hardiman hopes that educators and researchers will put their fully-developed intervention to use to expand on their study and improve understanding of arts integration in schools.

“Our data suggests that traditional instruction seems to perpetuate the achievement gap for students performing at the lower levels of academic achievement. We also found that students at advanced levels of achievement didn’t lose any learning from incorporating arts into classrooms, but potentially gained benefits such as engagement in learning and enhanced thinking dispositions. For these reasons, we would encourage educators to adopt integrating the arts into content instruction,” says Hardiman.

Abstract of the study:

Strong correlational evidence suggests that involvement in the arts improves students’ academic outcomes and memory of learning events [1–3]. It is unclear whether the improved outcomes are the result of general exposure to the arts, the integration of arts into content instruction, the use of effective instructional practices, or a combination of these factors. Moreover, as a growing number of studies suggest that arts-integrated pedagogy enhances learning, few empirical studies have explicitly examined the direct effect of an arts-integrated curriculum on learning and specifically on students’ memory for non-arts academic content. Thus, this study sought to determine the effects of arts-integrated lessons on long-term memory for science content. We hypothesized that embedding arts-based activities into conventionally taught lessons would produce learning outcomes as good as or better than traditional instruction. This paper describes the results of a randomized control trial that measured retention of science content using arts-integrated science units and matched units employing convention science instruction. The study was conducted in 16 fifth-grade classrooms in an urban mid-Atlantic school district.

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New publication: The Science of Early Learning (Deans for Impact)

I saw the announcement yesterday, and you can now download this new publication by Deans for Impact yourself here.

This is the short introduction:

How do young children develop their sense of self? How do they learn to understand what they read, and express their ideas in writing? How do they develop abstract knowledge of mathematical concepts?

These questions and others are explored in Deans for Impact’s publication, The Science of Early Learning. This report summarizes current cognitive-science research related to how young children — from birth to age eight — develop skills across three domains: agency, literacy, and numeracy. This document is intended to serve as a resource to anyone who is interested in our best scientific understanding of how young children develop control of their own behavior and intentions, how they learn to read and write proficiently, and how they develop the ability to think mathematically.

Although The Science of Early Learning is not intended to cover every aspect of early learning and development, it may be considered a starting point for educators, teachers, parents, and caregivers who wish to explore principles of learning science as they relate to young children. Deans for Impact intends to incorporate these principles into the work we do with programs that prepare early-childhood educators, and we hope this resource will be broadly useful to the education community

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Test anxiety and performance in high-stakes testing (Best Evidence in Brief)

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief with among others, this study

A study published in Contemporary Educational Psychology suggests that the relationship between test anxiety and performance in high-stakes tests is positive, but the relationship varies for students with different achievement levels.

Yao-Ting Sung and colleagues at the National Taiwan University used data from 1,931 Taiwanese ninth graders from 37 schools. The Basic Competence Test (BCTEST) was used to benchmark their achievement. The BCTEST is a high-stakes test for Taiwan junior-high school students, determining to which high schools with different levels of prestige and tuition fees they will be admitted. Subjects in the test included Mandarin, English, Mathematics, Social studies, Science and Writing. Test anxiety was measured by the examination stress scale.
Findings include:

  • The overall relationship between text-anxiety and learning achievement in high-stakes testing was positive (r =+0.18).
  • Lower levels of test-anxiety were found among high-achievement and low-achievement students while higher levels of test-anxiety were found among moderate-achievement students.
  • For higher achievement students, the relationship between text-anxiety and achievement in high-stakes testing was found to be negative (r = -0.16), while for the group of students with lower achievement, a positive relationship was found (r= +0.22).

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Brains of girls and boys develop more alike than previously thought, so cognitive differences are probably more nurture than nature

This is a very interesting new Dutch study by Wieringa et al with an even more interesting conclusion:

In conclusion, the results of this study do not support the hypothesis of sex difference in cortical development trajectories. The only structure showing a sex difference in cortical maturation did not relate to sex differences in cognition. We did, however, extend previous findings of greater variability in male brain structure by showing greater male than female variability in cortical develop- ment. Observed performance differences in cognition may be related to training and educational experiences, an important question to address in future research.

Does this mean that there are no differences between the brains of boys and girls? No, there are, e.g. males brains are bigger on average and there is more variance in brain structure with males than females. But the most important finding of this study is this:

These results show that sex differences in variance are present in the absence of average sex differences in brain structure. Furthermore, behavioral outcomes favored girls for reading and boys for mental counters working memory, but these results were not consistently related to brain development trajectories. The latter finding may suggest that average sex differences in cognition are more strongly related to experience than biological predispositions.

Does this mean more nurture than nature? See also:

Taken together, we observed sex differences in behavioral cognitive performance and sex difference in brain variance, but no evidence for a relation between these two patterns.

I do think there is still also a possible nature-part than can be overlooked: the part that was inherited. But gender differences in this case do seem more nurture than nature.

Abstract of the study:

Although male brains have consistently reported to be 8–10% larger than female brains, it remains not well understood whether there are differences between sexes (average or variance) in developmental trajectories. Furthermore, if sex differences in average brain growth or variance are observed, it is unknown whether these sex differences have behavioral relevance. The present longitudinal study aimed to unravel sex effects in cortical brain structure, development, and variance, in relation to the development of educationally relevant cognitive domains and executive functions (EFs). This was assessed with three experimental tasks including working memory, reading comprehension, and fluency. In addition, real-life aspects of EF were assessed with self- and parent-reported Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function scores. The full data set included 271 participants (54% female) aged between 8 and 29 years of which three waves were collected at 2-year intervals, resulting in 680 T1-weighted MRI scans and behavioral measures. Analyses of average trajectories confirmed general age-related patterns of brain development but did not support the hypothesis of sex differences in brain development trajectories, except for left banks STS where boys had a steeper decline in surface area than girls. Also, our brain age prediction model (including 270 brain measures) did not indicate delayed maturation in boys compared with girls. Interestingly, support was found for greater variance in male brains than female brains in both structure and development, consistent with prior cross-sectional studies. Behaviorally, boys performed on average better on a working memory task with a spatial aspect and girls performed better on a reading comprehension task, but there was no relation between brain development and cognitive performance, neither for average brain measures, brain age, or variance measures. Taken together, we confirmed the hypothesis of greater males within-group variance in brain structures compared with females, but these were not related to EF. The sex differences observed in EF were not related to brain development, possibly suggesting that these are related to experiences and strategies rather than biological development.

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While writing our new book…

I’ve waited some time to write this post, hopefully long enough so people won’t be recognized or even worse recognize themselves.

Last week our new book about myths about learning and education was released in Dutch. During the writing process I met some people that showed me why we need to keep up with what Paul, Casper and I are doing.

Take for example the MBTI-trainer I met who acknowledged she knew the theory and tool was utterly nonsense, but explained she kept spreading the word because the CEO’s loved it. Even wore, they would hate the proven model of the Big Five because no leader would want to be called a narcissist. She also stated that any change or reflection she could achieve, was a good thing. But keep up the good work, she said with a smile.

Or what about the professor who wrote a book about education – something that wasn’t his field of expertise. When I pointed out some factual mistakes, he explained to me that he didn’t know that much about education at all. He just wanted to give his own point of view about what is in his opinion wrong with education. That some of the stuff he was spreading could actually harm poor children, surprised him.

There was also the teacher that ended up being mentioned in our book. He was a victim of a school leader who misread the work by Hattie, a professor from ‘Australia’ (sic), making life impossible for the whole team. I was so glad that one of the first things we decided about our book, is to have a critical look at evidence-based education because it’s better to be extra critical for what you belief in.

Luckily most teachers I met during the past years wanted the best for their students. It’s them we want to support and inform. We will never ever blame a teacher for believing in things that are incorrect or more nuanced. They can’t spent the time we did on factchecking. Teachers want and need to be there for their students.

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How the effects of teenage motherhood can last during multiple generations

We have seen a drop of teenage pregnancies in a lot of countries, but it still happens. A new study examined the longitudinal effects over generations.

From the press release:

The grandchildren of adolescent mothers have lower school readiness scores than their peers, according to a study published February 6, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS ONEby Elizabeth Wall-Wieler of Stanford University, USA, and colleagues at the University of Manitoba.

Previous studies have established that children born to adolescent mothers are less ready for school and have poorer educational outcomes than children born to older mothers. Several mechanisms have been suggested to explain this association, including maternal education levels, social support and monetary resources.

To determine whether this effect extends to multiple generations, the authors used data from the Manitoba Population Research Data Repository to identify 11,326 children born in Manitoba, Canada, in 2000 through 2006 whose mothers were born in 1979 through 1997. Children born in these years took the Early Development Instrument (EDI), a 103 item questionnaire administered by kindergarten teachers to assess five areas of development. The researchers were able to link information from the data repository, EDI scores, and Canadian Census data. Results were adjusted to account for differences in birth year and location, income quintile, and child’s health at birth.

A greater percentage (36%) of children whose grandmothers had been adolescent mothers were not ready for school than children whose grandmothers were 20 or older at the birth of their first child (31%). The relationship persisted even when a child’s own mother was not an adolescent mother. Compared with children whose mothers and grandmothers were both at least 20 at the birth of their first child, those with grandmothers who were adolescent mothers but older mothers had 39% greater odds of not being ready for school (95%CI: 1.22-1.60). These children lagged behind in physical well-being, social competence, language and cognitive development.

The educational attainment and marital status of mothers and grandmothers was not available in the data, nor was individual income. The mechanisms underlying this multigenerational effect are unclear but the results have policy implications for school readiness interventions as well as calculating the costs and consequences of adolescent motherhood. Interventions to improve outcomes of children born to adolescent mothers should also extend to grandchildren of adolescent mothers, the authors say.

The authors add: “Adolescent childbearing has significant implications for early childhood development – not just for the child of that mother, but also for the grandchild of that mother.”

Abstract of the study:

Children born to adolescent mothers generally perform more poorly on school readiness assessments than their peers born to adult mothers. It is unknown, however, whether this relationship extends to the grandchildren of these adolescent mothers. This paper examines the multi-generational outcomes associated with adolescent motherhood by testing whether the grandchildren of adolescent mothers also have lower school readiness scores than their peers; we further assessed if this relationship was moderated by whether the child’s mother was an adolescent mother.

We used population-based data to conduct the retrospective cohort study of children born in Manitoba, Canada, 2000–2009, whose mothers were born 1979–1997 (n = 11,326). Overall school readiness and readiness on five domains of development were analyzed using logistic regression models.

Compared with children whose mothers and grandmothers were both ≥ 20 at the birth of their first child, those born to grandmothers who were < 20 and mothers who were ≥ 20 years old at the birth of their first child had 39% greater odds of being not ready for school (95% CI: 1.22–1.60). Children whose grandmothers were ≥ 20 and mothers were < 20 at the birth of their first child had 25% greater odds of being not ready for school (95% CI: 1.11–1.41), and children born to grandmothers and mothers who were both <20 at the birth of their first child had 35% greater odds of being not ready for school (95% CI: 1.18–1.54).

These findings suggest a multigenerational effect of adolescent motherhood on school readiness.

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Education and dementia, it’s more complicated

This is something that I heard many times:  having a higher level of education may protect the brain to some extent against dementia. Yeah! But wait, a new study sheds a big shadow on this idea making at least everything really more complicated.

From the press release:

Previous studies have suggested that having a higher level of education may protect the brain to some extent against dementia, providing a “cognitive reserve” that buffers against the disease. But results have been mixed, and a new study finds that education does not play a role in when the disease starts or how fast it progresses. The study was published in the February 6, 2019, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“The strengths of this analysis include that it was based on more participants who were observed for a longer period of time than previous analyses,” said study author Robert S. Wilson, PhD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “It’s possible that the contribution of education to cognitive reserve depends on other factors, such as life experiences or biological factors, but these results did not show a relationship between a higher level of education and a slower rate of decline of thinking and memory skills or a later onset of the accelerated decline that happens as dementia starts.”

For the study, researchers analyzed information from the Religious Orders Study, which involves older Catholic clergy members from across the United States, and the Rush Memory and Aging Project, which involves older people from the Chicago metropolitan area. Participants in both studies take part in annual evaluations and agree to a brain autopsy upon death.

The 2,899 participants, who were 78 years old on average at the start of the study, had an average of 16.3 years of education. Participants were followed for an average of eight years. A total of 696 participants developed dementia during the study; 752 died and had the brain autopsy; and 405 developed dementia and died during the study and had the autopsy.

Researchers divided participants into three education level groups, 12 years or fewer, 13 to 16 years, and 17 or more years.

The researchers did find an association between having a higher level of education and having higher thinking and memory skills at the start of the study, decades after formal education had ended. But they did not find an association between higher education and slower cognitive decline. Education level was also not related to how old people were when the disease started.

The researchers also did not see the results shown in earlier studies that showed that once cognitive decline started in more educated people, it accelerated faster than in people with less education. They also did not replicate earlier findings that people with high levels of Alzheimer’s disease markers in their brains who had high levels of education did not decline as rapidly as people the same levels of disease markers in the brain who had lower levels of education.

“This finding that education apparently contributes little to cognitive reserve is surprising given that education affects cognitive growth and changes in brain structure,” Wilson said. “But formal education typically ends decades before old age begins, so late-life activities involving thinking and memory skills such as learning another language or other experiences such as social activities, cognitively demanding work and having a purpose in life may also play a role in cognitive reserve than may be more important than remote experiences such as schooling.”

A limitation of the study is that participants had a relatively high level of education, so it is possible that effects previously seen on cognitive reserve due to education may have been primarily driven by variations at the lower end of the education level spectrum, Wilson said.

“Of course, even if one declines at the same rate it is still better to start at a higher level of cognition,” Wilson added.

Abstract of the study:

Objective To assess the contribution of education to cognitive reserve.

Methods Analyses are based on older participants in a longitudinal clinical-pathologic cohort study who had annual cognitive testing (n = 2,899) and subgroups that developed incident dementia (n = 696), died, and underwent a neuropathologic examination from which 10 neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular markers were derived (n = 752), or both (n = 405). Cognitive test scores were converted to a standard scale and averaged to yield composite measures of cognition.

Results Participants had a mean of 16.3 years of education (SD = 3.7, range 0–30). In all participants, education was associated with initial level of global cognition but not rate of cognitive change. In those who developed dementia, rate of global cognitive decline accelerated a mean of 1.8 years before the diagnosis, but education was not related to the onset or rate of accelerated decline. In the deceased, rate of global cognitive decline accelerated a mean of 3.4 years before death, but higher educational attainment was related to earlier (not later) onset of accelerated decline and unrelated to rate of acceleration. Higher education was associated with lower likelihood of gross and microscopic cerebral infarcts but not with other neuropathologic markers. Education was not related to global cognitive change not attributable to neuropathologic burden and did not decrease the association of higher neuropathologic burden with more rapid cognitive decline.

Conclusion The results suggest that the contribution of education to cognitive reserve is limited to its association with level of cognitive function before old age.

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Maybe an idea: teacher retention bonuses lead to positive results?

This study is not about merit pay as such, but all about keeping teachers in low performing schools… with results it seems at first, but with more issues when you read on. The effect on maths are not that big, and the labeling of teachers as high-performing is always difficult (check the most recent book by Dylan Wiliam).  I do think finding ways to keep good teachers in high-poverty schools is a good way of thinking, but more research is needed.

From the press release:

Offering teachers a retention bonus to stay at low-performing schools may increase test score gains among students in both reading and mathematics, according to a new study.

Walker Swain, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia, along with researchers at New York University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, examined the effects of offering a one-time, $5,000 selective retention bonus to teachers at high-poverty schools in Tennessee.

“We initially found compelling evidence that top-rated teachers who received bonuses, especially reading and math teachers, were more likely to come back than near-top-rated teachers who just barely missed being eligible,” said Swain, who teaches in the College of Education’s department of lifelong education, administration and policy. “That sort of sharp eligibility cutoff is great for evaluation, but it also is an important reminder that differentiated pay can be pretty arbitrary.”

In 2012, the Tennessee Department of Education designated $2.1 million from the federal Race to the Top Competition to a one-year pilot program, which offered the highest-rated teachers at “priority schools”–or schools that had the lowest test scores in the state–a retention bonus to decrease turnover rates and elevate student performance.

High-performing teachers who were offered retention bonuses received top scores on Tennessee’s evaluation model, which includes principal observations in class, student perception surveys, reviews of prior evaluations, as well as student test score growth.

Those who received the bonuses were required to stay at their schools the following year. After the first year of the program, Swain and his colleagues evaluated the impact of the pilot program on both teacher turnover rates and later student learning growth in high-poverty schools. Of the 473 teachers who were eligible for the bonus, 321 were retained and paid the $5,000 bonus.

“What we saw on the math side was this increase in teacher retention initially, and then it goes back to normal, when the extra money goes away,” said Swain, who was recently quoted on the study by Education Week. “On the reading side, you see an increase and then it drops off a little bit, but is still better. It’s possible some of the stickiness of the effect could be that staying one more year increased the teacher’s connection to the school.”

Often, schools–particularly high-poverty schools–have a harder time retaining science, technology, engineering and math teachers, since many of them hold advanced degrees in their subject areas, said Swain. Because of this, along with a general shortage of STEM teachers, the program’s $5,000 retention bonus may not have been enough to keep these instructors from leaving.

Despite this finding, priority schools that participated in the bonus program saw a significant improvement in reading test scores among students compared to similar non-participant schools in subsequent years, even after the retention bonus was removed.

While impacts on math scores were only marginally significant, students still scored higher in this subject area in the years following the bonus distribution.

“Part of what we try to do as policy analysts is to think about this program, its core underlying theory and whether it worked,” said Swain. “In this case, we can say the underlying theory worked, but we’re seeing some limits.”

The turnover rates of effective teachers at high-poverty schools are nearly double the rate of similar teachers at low-poverty schools, and if schools are losing a quarter of their best teachers every year, it is very difficult for them to build a stable school environment, said Swain. Low-performing schools that offer retention bonuses to their best teachers tend to improve student learning by lessening reliance on replacement teachers, who are often less effective and less experienced than their peers.

While some critics argue that identifying and replacing low-performing teachers can help improve student achievement, often, at high-poverty schools, these teachers are replaced by instructors who perform well below average. According to Swain, a more promising strategy is to retain the most effective teachers to help enhance the learning environment.

“We try to figure out what are the challenges and what problem this policy highlights,” said Swain. “And here, I think it highlights the fact that turnover of some of the most successful teachers is a big problem in our schools that are struggling the most. And when you address that, one tool that can be used is conditional compensation where you ask teachers to stay and be a leader. Then, you’re ultimately putting the decision in the teacher’s hands.”

Abstract of the study:

Research has established that racially isolated schools with high concentrations of low-income students disproportionately struggle to recruit and retain highly effective teachers, limiting disadvantaged students’ exposure to high-quality instruction and driving institutional and community instability. This study estimates the effect of selective retention bonuses (SRB) for highly effective teachers on low-performing, high poverty schools’ ability to elevate student performance by increasing access to effective instruction. The theory of action behind the bonus program is simple: SRBs result in greater numbers of highly effective teachers at participating schools, who subsequently drive larger student gains than the teachers who would otherwise fill their positions. To examine whether students in high poverty schools benefit from retention of highly effective teachers, we use differences in eligibility for schools to offer bonuses and the discrete timing of the program in a matched sample, difference-in-differences framework. Results indicate that schools who offered SRBs saw greater test score gains in subsequent years, especially on state reading exams.

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The Internet Is Sowing Mass Confusion. We Must Rethink How We Teach Kids Every Subject (Sam Wineburg)

After reading this you can’t say you weren’t warned…

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Sam Wineburg, a professor of education at Stanford University, is the author of “Why Learn History (When It’s Already on Your Phone).”  This op-ed appeared in USA Today, February 12, 2019

In 2016, months before the presidential election, my research team surveyed nearly 8,000 students from middle school through college on their ability to judge material from the internet. We concluded that students’ ability to navigate online information could be captured in one word: bleak. We released our findings two weeks after Donald Trump’s election and were immediately swept up in the media maelstrom.

Our most reported finding was that 82 percent of middle school students couldn’t tell the difference between an ad and a news story. But putting it that way isn’t really fair to kids: While dozens of outlets reported this nugget, none mentioned an industry study that showed 59 percent of adults couldn’t tell the difference, either.


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The effect of a World Cup on students’ effort and achievement

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief and this study will make a lot of people smile because they will recognize this:

A study published in the Journal of Public Economics examines how leisure time can impact students’ effort and educational achievement by looking at the overlap of major soccer tournaments (the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA European Championship) with GCSE exams in England (GCSEs are high-stakes exams taken in the UK).
Using seven years of subject data on students in England, taken from the National Pupil Database, Robert Metcalfe and colleagues estimated the overall effect of a tournament by comparing within-student variation in performance during the exam period between tournament and non-tournament years.
Overall, they found a negative average effect of the tournament on exam performance, as measured by whether students achieved a grade C or higher in at least 5 subjects at GCSE. In tournament years, the odds of achieving the benchmark of a grade C or higher in at least 5 subjects fell by 12%. For students who are likely to be very interested in soccer (defined as likely to be white, male, disadvantaged students), the impact is greater, with the odds of achieving the benchmark reduced by 28%. This result is important, as this group is already the lowest performing, with only 21.3% achieving a grade C or higher in at least 5 subjects at GCSE in non-tournament years.
An earlier study reported in a previous issueof Best Evidence in Brief also found that some students perform less well in their GCSEs in years when there is a major international soccer tournament taking place.

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