Professional Development: Blog

The Science of Learning

January 26, 2012
Helping Low-SES Students Thrive

Studies and statistics have clearly demonstrated the link between low achievement and low socioeconomic status or SES. Still, studies have also shown that given the right conditions, every student – including those from less fortunate circumstances – have the opportunity to succeed. Not only that, but the kinds of changes that can increase achievement are available to every household, regardless of SES. Factors linked to low-SES have been shown to have an effect upon readiness for school and achievement once a child has entered school. Circumstances include a household’s lack of financial wherewithal to devote to learning resources such as books, supplies and computers. Other contributing factors include lack of parental involvement; only 36% of low SES parents read to their kindergartners, compared to 62% in the highest SES students (Coley, 2002). In addition, parents of low SES households tend to be dual-income or single parent families who have limited time and energy at home to devote to meaningful engagement with their children. That said, many successful students do come from low-SES homes. While some of this success can be attributed to the simple innate resiliency and drive arising from within the student, research has been able to tease out a number of common factors in such homes, where certain practices are clearly contributing to student success.  Factors for Success In 2006, Allison Milne and Lee Plourde studied this population, selecting six second-grade students from a Central Washington elementary school who came from low-SES homes but were also high achievers. While the number of students in the study was limited, Milne and Plourde outline a number of common factors in their homes that likely contributed to their success: Educational content in the home:In all households, these students as early learners all had access to learning materials, such as books, writing […]

March 3, 2011
Truth in Numbers: School Achieves Statistically Significant Improvements on TAKS

In the 2008-2009 school year, selected students at Sam Houston Elementary School in the Grand Prairie Independent School District, TX, worked with the Reading Assistant software. To evaluate the impact of this intervention, the school conducted an observational study using scores from the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or “TAKS,” the annual state assessment. Administered in the spring of each year, students throughout Texas take the TAKS, which measures progress against the state’s curricular standards. On average, the study students worked with the Reading Assistant software for a total of two and a half hours over a 27-day period. The outcomes measure used for the study was the reading portion of the TAKS. Assessment results were reported in Lexile scores, which provide a continuous scale for tracking students’ reading achievement over time. Before and after scores were available for 18 fifth graders who had worked with the software: Prior to using Reading Assistant, many of these students were struggling readers. Only 56% of study participants met the state standard for reading proficiency in 2008. The group’s average reading level was more than a year below what it should have been for their grade. After using Reading Assistant, the percentage of students who met the Texas state standard for reading proficiency increased from 56% to 78%. The group’s average Lexile score went up from 541 before using the software to 753 after using the software. The study group showed statistically significant gains in both reading score and passing rate, suggesting that guided oral reading practice with Reading Assistant had a dramatic impact on reading achievement. Reading Assistant software combines advanced speech recognition technology with research-based interventions to function as a personal tutor for guided oral reading practice.

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