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Intervention in Schools

In: Philosophy and Psychology

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Interventions targeting parental involvement with the school and computer-assisted learning to enhance dyslexic students’ reading comprehension
Education has long been recognised as an indispensable part of life, which serves as a platform to convey general knowledge, and develops critical skills for children to achieve their best potential. Given its value to today’s society, there has since been a leap forward in research to identify why the educational system still remains in a state of hiatus (Rumberger
& Lim, 2008). The unfortunate reality of today’s economic climate for example, has been recognised to cause a divide in academic success between socio-economically disadvantaged children, from those with highly-educated affluent families (Noble, Norman & Farah, 2005).
While there is some empirical evidence to support the above claims, current researchers such as Dubow et al. (2009) are now developing a more sophisticated understanding that the noteworthy disparities in academic performance, may be better explained by the influence of environmental-contextual factors (e.g. parental education, family interaction and household income). Moreover, since Cassen and Kingdon (2007) suggested that schools’ performance contributed to only 14% of the variation of low attainment, it becomes self-evident to examine the influence of family background, which has continually been suggested to be the central significant predictor of child’s cognitive abilities and their subsequent literacy development (Fuchs & Young, 2006). Consequently, the overarching aims of this essay will be to critically review the current literature highlighting the implication of socio-economic and home background disparities on academic performance. Two interventions will then be proposed, in an attempt to: (1) minimise the economic-achievement gap between low-income and affluent families; (2) enhance reading skills of specific children in a context that is meaningful to them, with the ultimate goal of guiding interventional efforts into practice within the school concerned.

Promoting Parental Involvement
The view that parental involvement (PI) can have a direct and long-lasting impact on children’s attainment has prompted educational psychologists to investigate the nature of these outcomes in greater depth (Flauri & Hawkes, 2008). Researchers have since identified that parents who are more actively involved in their children’s schoolwork may be the key to their academic success. Bakker, Denessen and Brus-Laeven (2011) confirms the above claim after discovering PI was the only behavioural factor to consistently demonstrate evidence of a causal association with their children’s cognitive capabilities, social knowledge and competence at school.
Noteworthy findings from Fordham (2010) have since reported that parents from different home backgrounds were shown to vary in the extent they provided children with early learning experiences and supported their schoolwork. Extensive research focusing on this discrepancy between educational attainment have consistently identified parents’ socioeconomic status (SES) to have a pervasive and persistent influence over their children’s progress in academia. For example, Phipps and Lethbridge’s (2007) randomised controlled trial (RCT) explored whether there may be an association between family poverty and subsequent academic performance. They discovered that higher-income households were consistently associated with better outcomes for children (aged 4-15 years), accounting for
61% of the variability, scoring significantly higher on measures of vocabulary and communication skills, knowledge of numbers and ability to concentrate than children from families in poverty.
Further support for the above findings was discovered by Letorneau, Fedick and Willms
(2007) who established that youngsters from wealthy households frequently out-performed children from low SES backgrounds on a repetitive vocabulary test. Given the above

findings, it therefore seems likely that part of this effect may be attributed to children from poorer families lacking in the quality of PI, enabling them to learn the necessary social skills required in preparation for primary education.
Global longitudinal studies have subsequently been crucial for establishing some of the key influential factors that are contributing to this striking academic inequality. Findings from
Dearing, Kreider, Simpkins and Weiss (2006), for example, have surpassed any model that denounces schools or the student’s background for academic failure, for they identified that much of this achievement gap between disadvantaged and privileged children could be largely attributed to the child’s wider experiences gained from their out-of-school environment. Carr & Pike (2012) support these claims, having identified parents who encourage children to join some form of society, provided them with a greater opportunity to discover and develop their talents. It seems likely, therefore, that this academic-achievement gap may have emerged before children even started school, since Bond et al. (2007) also demonstrated that activities such as sports and art classes were found to increase the students’ readiness for school, regardless of their SES.
Given the importance PI has on promoting early learning experiences and boosting academic achievement, it is therefore fundamental to identify intervention strategies in an attempt to minimise this disparity between low-income and affluent children’s grades. Numerous studies, such as Sammons et al. (2004), indicated that preschools that promote mutual activities for parents and children were the most likely to be beneficial: this has important implications for strategies to support disadvantaged children start school with a level of academic competence and educational achievement that is more closely related to their affluent peers.

Indeed, Green, Walker, Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler (2007) discovered that the achievement gap significantly reduced when schools encouraged low-income families to become more actively involved in their children’s schoolwork. Similarly, researchers such as Galindo and
Sheldon (2012) have reported the fundamental importance for schools having an influence over PI, finding that teachers’ efforts to support parents to engage in their child’s education were positively correlated with higher attainment grades. Results, therefore, can be interpreted as providing the framework for teacher-parent programs to be pivotal for academic competence (Ramey & Ramey, 2007). However, it should be noted that the study was limited due to a lack of a RCT design to enable comparisons between the different family backgrounds. This therefore ignites the debate as to the validity for schools implementing intervention programs without the research to fully establish what might have caused this academic shift in attainment.
While it is apparent from the literature reviews that the efficiency of these interventions is somewhat ambiguous, the results from Block and Obrusnikova (2007) meta-analysis of 19 studies offered reason to remain optimistic that the academic-achievement gap can be lowered if parents receive the appropriate level of support to assist their children’s learning.
Findings identified that parental support programs that focused not only on the academic outcomes of the child, but also provided parental training, were more effective in improving cognitive outcomes compared to interventions lacking in such training. However, it is important to highlight the methodological flaws with the design: Block and Obrusnikova
(2007) failed to provide sufficient details about the type of parental skill training that was implemented across the studies and, therefore, conclusions about how and why this program was effective in improving academic outcomes remains unknown. Nevertheless, the researchers did point out the importance for children to have an emotionally supportive home environment in order to encourage their cognitive advances in academia.

Numerous longitudinal studies have repeatedly confirmed this type of intervention to be effective, suggesting that embedding parental skill training with cognitively focused programs may be associated with subsequent positive outcomes in their children’s academic attainment (Catalano, Oesterle, Fleming & Hawkins, 2004).
For example, Duch (2005) investigated the effects on children’s overall development when a parental program devised to offer training to low-income African-American parents, over the course of two years. The intervention initially concentrated on addressing six key areas, including positive behaviour management, offering effective praise to children and personal stress management. The program then focussed on developing strategies between the parents and children to promote academic readiness. Findings identified several positive outcomes, the most notable being: children whose parents took part in the intervention resulted in them all achieving higher scores on reading and maths tests, compared to the control group. It may be possible to argue, therefore, that if parents felt more able to get more actively involved in their children’s education at home, then this could also lead them to interact with teachers more widely compared to parents who were not enrolled on the program.
The studies described above have been influential in providing the framework for the appropriate intervention to be applied to the South Gare Primary School. Given the importance that school-parent interaction has on children’s educational performance, and the fact that a high proportion of parents from this school are from low SES backgrounds, it may be optimally effective for the school to implement the ‘Incredible Years’ program. This is a preventative intervention for teachers and parents designed to provide cost-effective, early prevention programs to promote the social, emotional and academic competence and general school readiness in young children (specifically those who come from underprivileged backgrounds). Parents are taught, for example, how to: (1) improve their problem-solving and communication skills; (2) increase PI in children’s schoolwork at home over a course of

12-20 week group sessions (which may include setting personal goals, role play practice, and video footage to encourage group discussion). RCTs by Scott (2010) and Melhuish et al.
(2008) offer support for the program’s effectiveness after discovering that, one year after the program, children allocated to the intervention displayed significant improvements in their attainment grades as a result of having a better parent-child relationship, compared to the control. Given that the proposed intervention for the school has been supported by a decade’s worth of worldwide evidence, it seems reasonable to conclude that South Gare School will see some promising outcomes.
Enhancing reading comprehension in dyslexic children
An overwhelming amount of evidence has consistently acknowledged reading proficiency as paramount to the development of the pupil through school. As previously discussed, PI can have a fundamental role on their children’s cognitive abilities and academic success, even before they have started school (Dearing, Kreider, Simpkins & Weiss, 2006; Sammons et al.,
2004). Undoubtedly, children who are not provided with the opportunity at home to acquire basic reading skills are more likely to develop reading difficulties and endure a laboured progression through the curriculum in order to attain a similar level of attainment as their classmates (O’Connor & Padeliadu, 2000). Therefore, in order to facilitate the development of reading comprehension (RC), early screening when students enter primary school is mandatory to identify potential problems, and offer appropriate techniques to address the issues accordingly.
Particular emphasis has recently been placed on dyslexic children in schools’ attempts to enhance their reading age, to one that is similar to their classmates (Davis, 2013). Since dyslexia is recognised to be associated with a difficulty to comprehend and convey the meaning of visual material (Jones, Branigan & Kelly, 2008), extensive research has been

conducted to determine whether early intervention strategies can be both effective and cost effective in enhancing dyslexic children’s RC through figurative and literal recognition of words. Educators, for example are now embracing a range of multi-sensory practices, which offer a rich and motivating learning experience for students through modalities such as: visual, auditory, and kinetic, which simultaneously enhances learning of written language and RC.
Promising outcomes for this strategy has been found by Gorjian et al. (2012) who provided a
3 month intensive reading program for children who had been previously screened for dyslexia. Multi-sensory techniques (MST) were implemented, such as encouraging the student to read aloud and getting immediate feedback from the teacher, while the control group received placebo. By the end of the program, the children receiving MST significantly outperformed their peers in reading fluency and visual co-ordination skills compared to the control group (p

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