Research shows that pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to attend pre-school or to have a home environment incorporating literacy and language activities than their less disadvantaged peers. As a result, children from low socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to enter school with the social and academic skills needed to set them up for success. Jans Deitrichson and colleagues at the Danish National Centre for Social Research recently performed a meta-analysis aimed at determining what components within academic interventions are the most effective at improving the achievement of primary school students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds.
A total of 101 studies performed between 2000–2014 were included in the meta-analysis. Seventy-six percent were randomised controlled trials and the rest were quasi-experimental studies. Studies had to target pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds, utilise standardised test results in reading and maths as the outcome measures, and take place in OECD or EU countries, although most were in the US. They also had to contain information that allowed the researchers to calculate effect sizes.
The authors sorted each study’s academic intervention into “component categories” (the methods used). Examples include coaching/ mentoring of pupils, cooperative learning, incentives, small-group tutoring, or a combination of these or other methods.
Analysis demonstrated that:
- Tutoring, feedback and progress monitoring, and cooperative learning were the components with the largest effect sizes.
- The authors stated that although the average effect sizes for these components were not large enough to close the achievement gap between high- and low-socioeconomic pupils, they certainly reduced it.
They suggest that cost-effectiveness studies should be performed on these programmes to give policymakers and educators a fuller picture of programme benefits.
Dietrichson, J., Bøg, M., Filges, T., & Klint Jørgensen, A.-M. K. (2017). Academic interventions for elementary and middle school students with low socioeconomic status: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 87(2), 243–282.