Summary of the project
The number of pupils who lag behind in reading and mathematics is substantial for the Netherlands (Inspectorate of Education, 2007, in Expert group Continuous Learning lines, 2008). This problem already manifests halfway through elementary school (van Berkel, Krom, Heesters, van der Schoot, & Hemker, 2007; Kraemer, Janssen, van der Schoot, & Hemker, 2005). In order to improve pupil performance and ensure that pupils are well-equipped to function in society, socalled ‘performance standards’ (in Dutch, ‘referentieniveaus’) will be deployed – from primary to higher education. These performance standards provide definitions and examples of what students should be able to know and do. From august 2010 onwards, these standards are mandated by law for grade 6, in primary school. It is assumed that the implementation of standards to education will improve instruction and this improved instruction will lead to improved pupil performance. Yet even though standards have been deployed in education for several years, there is little clarity on how schools, teachers, and students are actually responding (Resnick, 2006). The effectiveness of (performance) standards has not yet been assessed in a clear manner.
In this study we investigate the effects of performance standards on pupil performance: Do the reading achievements of pupils in grade 2 and 3 improve after their teachers have followed a Professional Development-program on performance standards and their application for reading comprehension? Teachers are provided with a Professional Development-program on setting (as performance standards have not been set for this age group) and using performance standards for reading comprehension. Standards will be set using the Bookmark standard setting procedure. The professional development program will focus on 1) general pedagogical/didactical knowledge, such as ‘data-driven teaching’ (e.g., based on the work of Black & Wiliam, 2004), and 2) (pedagogical) content knowledge, such as the importance of modeling reading strategies during instruction (e.g., based on the work of the National Reading Panel, 2000). In addition, the curricular textbooks will be analyzed and their goals will be cross-referenced to the goals set by the performance standards.
Current status of the project: The intervention is currently being implemented. A number of 5 schools in the North of the Netherlands, with 19 teachers and approx. 250 pupils, are participating in the experimental condition. The control condition will be constructed using ‘Propensity Score Matching’ (Hong & Raudenbusch, 2006), in order to select ‘similar classes’ from a larger set of schools (for which an intervention is scheduled for a later time frame). This approach mimics randomization (Kelcey, 2009) and it can be used “to estimate causal effects” (Caliendo & Kopeinig, 2008, p. 31) . Multilevel analysis of the results will be executed using pupil-level data of performances on standardized reading tests, while taking teacher implementation (as studied in observations) into account.