Best Evidence in Brief is a fortnightly e-newsletter produced by the Institute for Effective Education at the University of York, and the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University.
Every two weeks we send a round-up of items of interest from the education news. What makes Best Evidence in Brief different is that we look at the evidence behind the headlines, providing you with, we hope, practical information on what works in schools.
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“Count von Count, Sesame Street’s friendly mathematical vampire, is obsessed with a new number: 0.29”, says Dr Charlotte Cole, Senior Vice President of Global Education at Sesame Workshop. She was responding to a new article in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology which found that the impact of Sesame Street is significant and positive, with an effect size of 0.292. The authors conducted a meta-analysis examining the effects of children's exposure to international co-productions of Sesame Street, synthesising the results of 24 studies, conducted with over 10,000 children in 15 countries. The results indicated significant positive effects of watching the programme, aggregated across learning outcomes, and within three outcome categories: cognitive outcomes, including literacy and numeracy; learning about the world, including health and safety knowledge; and social reasoning and respect for others.
A paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Association for Education Finance and Policy has shown that, in the US, pupils taking lower-level classes, and those in schools in underprivileged areas, have less chance of having a qualified maths teacher (one with a degree or other qualification in the subject). This is despite numerous policy efforts in the past decade to ensure that all children receive teaching of the same quality. The study used data from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009, which includes over 12,000 students linked to mathematics teachers in over 700 schools. The research, Student Access to Qualified High School Mathematics Teachers: A Multilevel Analysis, is a correlational study based on cross-sectional data, and does not seek to draw out possible causes.
A new article published in Child Abuse & Neglect explores the link between childhood bullying and parenting. It found that both victims and bully/victims (those who bully and are victims of bullying) were more likely to be exposed to negative parenting behaviour, including abuse and neglect. The effects were generally small-to-moderate for victims but moderate for bully/victims. Although parental involvement, support, and high supervision decrease the chances of children being involved in bullying behaviour, for victims, overprotection increased the risk.
A number of possible explanations are given. Some mistreated and abused children may be submissive at home to maintain their safety, or they may learn that they are powerless, have less confidence, and become less able to assert themselves. On the other hand, some mistreated children display heightened levels of aggression, which suggests that they may be more inclined to bully. Most studies did not differentiate cause and effect, so it could be that a bullied child may be difficult and this might lead to poor parenting.
Seventy studies met the inclusion criteria for the meta-analysis, with a final sample of over 200,000 children and young people aged 4–25. The authors' recommendations include intervention programmes that target children who are exposed to harsh or abusive parenting, and parental training programmes to strengthen supportive involvement and warm and affectionate parenting.
What makes successful schools different from other schools? What makes a school perform better than predicted given the characteristics of the children it serves? These were the questions posed in this study, which used data from over 1,700 California public middle and high schools. Researchers identified 40 schools that consistently performed better than predicted on standardised tests of maths and English. These schools were labeled “beating-the-odds” (BTO) schools.
The BTO schools had substantially more positive levels of school climate than other schools, as measured by the California Healthy Kids Survey. This examines such dimensions of the school environment as safety, academic supports, social relationships, and school connectedness. BTO schools had climate scores at the 82nd percentile, on average, whereas other schools were at the 49th percentile, on average. Differences in school climate were twice as large between BTO schools and 20 schools that were consistently performing worse than expected.