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First-of-its-kind evaluation to improve literacy and help year 1 children catch up

Research News
Monday, December 19, 2016 - 4:45pm
The Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) and the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Program Evaluation have partnered to independently evaluate MiniLit, a program targeting children in the bottom 25 per cent of readers at the start of year 1, to help improve their literacy skills.

Led in collaboration by Evidence for Learning and the NSW Government, this is the first time in Australia that an independent randomised controlled trial has tested a program that teaches key reading elements such as phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

Following the recent PISA results which suggest Australia’s literacy skills, especially for children living in disadvantage, are one year behind their peers in the world’s best performing countries, MCRI’s Professor Sharon Goldfeld said “it’s no longer okay to accept untested interventions.”

“Research shows children who fall behind in reading are unlikely to catch up. We want to arm our teachers with the latest proven strategies - what works and, just as importantly, what doesn’t.”

Bringing together national expertise from health and education, this project spearheads a new approach that recognises the importance of applying the most robust testing methods from both systems to gain the best outcomes for Australia’s children.

MCRI and University of Melbourne Research Fellow Dr Jon Quach said this trial will enable provide strong evidence as to whether a new intervention can help children achieve better outcomes than current approaches employed in schools.

“This comparison will guide schools as what interventions may lead to the best student outcomes,” he said.

Centre for Program Evaluation Associate Director, Professor Janet Clinton said it’s also important to ensure programs can “work in the real world.”

 “Understanding the merit and worth of educational interventions is essential to a sound educational system, however, we also need to understand what quality implementation looks like. Too many good programs are deemed ineffective due to poor implementation.”

The trial will run throughout 2017 in more than 20 NSW public schools.