Tag Archives: School

Government vs. Private Schools

CLAHRC WM is not just interested in health care since the methods we use are equally relevant to decision-makers in education, social services, industrial policy, criminology, and so on. We should all be learning from each other. In a previous blog I reported on the (mostly positive) results of the ‘Moving to Opportunity’ experiment in the USA, where families were given an opportunity to move from a deprived neighbourhood to a more salubrious one. So I was interested to spot an RCTs of vouchers that allowed children (over a wide age range) from government schools to attend private schools (also in the USA).[1] The experiment was recent (last five years) and we have outcomes at one year only. Seventy percent of pupils allocated a voucher to attend a private school took up their offer; so both intention to treat and per protocol analyses are reported. The educational outcomes were lower in the intervention group, and were statistically significantly lower for mathematics. This negative effect was greater if the voucher was taken up than if it was not. The negative effect was greater if the child came from a school that was not rated as poor performing than if the previous school was rated satisfactory or good. The negative effect was greatest if the child was in elementary school, and non-significantly positive if they were already in high school.

What caused the negative effect on educational outcomes? Simply moving school does not seem to explain the results, since a proportion of control children moved school with little or no apparent effect. However, private schools provide less instructional time than government schools, especially in elementary school. Other studies have also noted negative effects of moving children to private school on educational outcomes in the short term. But it is far too early to declare the intervention a failure. There is a limit to how much an elementary school child can assimilate, and it is the long-term effects that are important. However, I was surprised by this result – educational interventions have a habit of producing results different to those intended. Full marks to the US Congress, which had the wisdom to evaluate its own policies. The UK Cabinet Office has published a document arguing for more RCTs of policy,[2] and I expect to be able to report the results of further RCTs of educational interventions in the News Blog.

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director

References:

  1. Dynarski M, Rui N, Webber A, Gutmann B, Bachman M. Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program. Impacts After One Year. Alexandria, VA: Institute of Education Sciences, 2017.
  2. Haynes L, Service O, Goldacre B, Torgerson D. Test, Learn, Adapt: Developing Public Policy with Randomised Controlled Trials. London: UK Cabinet Office, 2012.
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Reducing Class Size

News blog readers know that from time to time I make a diversion into the territory of evidence-based education. On the way home from work recently, I listened to a discussion about the merits of reduced class size. One of the protagonists argued that reducing class size was very beneficial to learning outcomes. The other said that educational outcomes were hardly affected by class size. So I turned again to Hattie’s monumental work.[1] There was support for both positions from this well-studied intervention; the debate concerns the magnitude of the effect. The total number of students across the studies is about 1 million and the effect of reducing class size from about 25 to about 15 is about 0.15 of a standard deviation. This might sound like a nugatory effect (as argued by one of the debaters). However, a standard deviation of this magnitude represents about half a year of learning achievement. Remember, a standard deviation of only 0.3 represents a whole year and a standard deviation of 1.0 represents going on for three years of achievement, on average. Reducing class size is much less effective than many other interventions, but it still seems highly desirable. There is also an argument that teacher satisfaction and retention might be improved by smaller class sizes. However, when all is said and done, class-size is not nearly as important as teacher ability (which in full is not nearly as important as student ability, but that is a given for any particular class).

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director

Reference:

  1. Hattie J. Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. Oxon, UK: Routledge, 2009.

Keeping a Child Back at School

We have often talked about Hattie’s work on evidence-based education.[1-4] Now we turn to retention (pages 97-99) – the act of keeping a child back and having them repeat a year of school on the grounds of poor performance.[5] Numerous papers, including a meta-analysis of 20 studies,[6] have shown retention to be associated with negative effects for the retained student. In subsequent years they have lower scores for a whole range of subjects: language, arts, reading, mathematics, work-study skills, and social studies, as well as social and emotional adjustment and behaviour, self-concept, and attitude to school. So a picture is starting to emerge – remember streaming is also unhelpful.[7] So any act that demeans a child or destroys her self-confidence is bad, while bright children are not held back by having less bright peers in the classroom. See also our News Blog on the Michelle Obama effect.[8]

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director

References:

  1. Lilford RJ. Evidence-based Education. NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 24 February 2017.
  2. Lilford RJ. The School, the Teacher of the Pupil – Which is Most Important? NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 28 October 2016.
  3. Lilford RJ. Ask Not to Whether, But Why, Before the Bell Tolls. NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 29 July 2016.
  4. Lilford RJ. Education Update. NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 2 September 2016.
  5. Hattie J. Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. Oxon, UK: Routledge, 2009.
  6. Jimerson SR. Meta-analysis of Grade Retention Research: Implications for Practice in the 21st Century. School Psychol Rev. 2001; 30(3): 420-37.
  7. Lilford RJ. Evidence-Based Education (or How Wrong the CLAHRC WM Director Was). NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 15 July 2016.
  8. Lilford RJ. More on Education. NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 16 September 2016.

The School, the Teacher, or the Pupil – Which is Most Important?

News Blog readers will know that the CLAHRC WM Director takes a critical look at Hattie’s monumental overview of evidence-based education in most of our posts.[1-4] Today let’s look at a fundamental question Hattie addresses in the monograph – the question of how much of the variance in educational outcomes resides in the pupil, the teacher, or the school. Not surprisingly this has been looked at many times. It is a little like separating the components of variance in the outcome of surgery according to the patient, the surgeon, and the hospital. Hattie [5] quotes a meta-analysis by Marzano who found that the lion’s share (80%) of variance in achievement was accounted for by student level variables, the smallest share (7%) by school effects, and an intermediate share by teachers (13%). Of course, as we shall see in future blogs based on Hattie’s work, this is not the end of the story. For instance, student effects include the effect on the student of previous education – i.e. previous teachers are consolidated within the student component of variance. More important still, is the effect of parents / guardians, since this is also consolidated within students in cross-sectional studies. We will look at unravelling these factors in future news blogs. In the meantime, we can say that ineffectual teachers have a negative effect on achievement, no matter how good the school, and exceptional teachers can more than compensate for a rubbish school.

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director

References:

  1. Lilford RJ. Evidence-based Education. (Or How Wrong the CLAHRC WM Director Was). NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 15 July 2016.
  2. Lilford RJ. Ask Not to Whether, But Why, Before the Bell Tolls. NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 29 July 2016.
  3. Lilford RJ. Education Update. NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 2 September 2016.
  4. Lilford RJ. Bring Back the University Lecture: More on Evidence-Based Teaching. NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 2 September 2016.
  5. Hattie J. The Applicability of Visible Learning to Higher Education. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology. 2015; 1(1): 79-91.

Correlation between Schooling and Per Capita GDP Growth

Previous studies have found only a modest correlation between mean years of schooling and GDP growth in low- and medium-income countries (LMICs). But the educational content of a given number of school years varies enormously – on average, school leavers in Honduras are over an unconscionable six years behind their age-controlled peers in Singapore in Science and Maths competence. A recent paper from ‘Science’ [1] shows that it is school achievement that is important and in logistic regression accounts for over half of the variance between countries in growth rate, conditional on economic starting point, and the temporal relationships all but exclude reverse causality. Of course, it is possible that there is some other ingredient that causes both school and economic attainment in the high economic growth countries. The CLAHRC WM Director hypothesises that knowledge is not just knowledge – education has a deeper effect on the psyche leading to a more empathetic, altruistic person. As the old quote has it, “education is what is left after all the facts have been forgotten.” Is this hypothesis testable?

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director

Reference:

  1. Hanushek EA, & Woessmann L. Knowledge Capital, Growth, and the East Asian Miracle. Science. 2016; 51 (6271): 344-5.