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Achievement and Under -achievement: A sorry tail?. Professor Martyn Rouse m.rouse@abdn.ac.uk. The long tail of underachievement: Some key questions. Why is there concern about underachievement? Who underachieves or gets excluded? Why does it happen? What are the consequences?

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Achievement and Under -achievement: A sorry tail?

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Achievement and Under -achievement:

A sorry tail?

Professor Martyn Rouse

m.rouse@abdn.ac.uk


The long tail of underachievement: Some key questions

  • Why is there concern about underachievement?

  • Who underachieves or gets excluded?

  • Why does it happen?

  • What are the consequences?

  • Why focus on achievement AND inclusion?

  • What is being done to close the achievement gap and to increase participation?


Why achievement and inclusion? The broader context

  • International comparisons of participation and achievement for different groups of children

    • PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment)

    • TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study)

    • PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study)


Why achievement and inclusion? The broader context

  • The role of schooling in achieving public and private human, economic and social development goals:

    • Social cohesion and inclusion

    • Security and safety

    • Prosperity

    • Subjective well-being

  • In the context of:

    • International competitiveness

    • Globalisation and migration

    • New patterns of employment


Why achievement and inclusion?

  • Many countries have groups of children who are excluded and/or underachieve

  • This leads to long term economic and social consequences for all of us

  • The economic and social returns from education are complex….but:

    • There are clear links between poor educational outcomes, poverty and additional support needs

    • Tackling underachievement and exclusion is the right thing to do, it makes sound economic and social sense

    • This is an international movement


Who underachieves or is not included?

  • In UK it’s associated with ASN/SEN (especially behaviour), class, poverty, ethnicity, language, gender, mobility and ‘looked after children’

    • See:

      • ‘More choices,more chances’

      • Quality and Equity of Schooling in Scotland (OECD 2007)

      • Others international studies (PISA, PIRLS)

      • UNICEF study, Children’s well-being in rich countries.


Where do we stand?

  • The highest achieving pupils in the UK compare with the best in the world

  • Scotland does better than England ….BUT

  • The UK has one of the longest tails of underachievement in the developed world

  • Scotland has high levels of disengagement from education post 15

  • The UK is at the bottom of international comparisons of ‘children’s well-being’


How serious is underachievement?


Gap between average pupils and low achievers S4: trend over ten years


But how do we compare?


Mean student achievement in best and worst classrooms across countries


What are the causes?

  • An emphasis on sorting, sifting and predicting

  • School structures

    • Streaming, banding and setting

  • Inequalities within and between schools

    • Who gets the ‘best’ teachers?

    • Who gets the ‘best’ students?

  • High poverty students/ low achieving pupils are more likely to get less experienced/less well qualified teachers

  • Resource inequality leads to an ‘opportunity gap’


Causes: continued

  • Competing policy initiatives

    • How are schools judged?

    • Whose achievement is valued?

    • How is achievement assessed, recorded and reported?

    • What kinds of achievement are valued?

  • School cultures and reward systems

  • High and low status work

  • Attitudes, beliefs and stigma

    • “Us and them” ……..worthy and unworthy children

  • But where do these notions come from?

    • Embedded beliefs about social class?

    • Reinforced by the media?

    • The need to classify, categorise and pathologise?

    • Beliefs about human differences?


The real culprit?


Some consequences of ‘bell curve thinking’

  • Focus on the measurable

  • Reification

  • Unwarranted status because of its elegant mathematics

  • Makes it difficult to demonstrate learning

  • Comparisons with inappropriate populations

  • Leads to beliefs about ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’ people

  • Deterministic thinking about learning

  • Limits expectations

  • Associated with the notion of prediction and POTENTIAL


Consequences: continued

  • Intergenerational low aspirations

    • When translated into school level expectations

  • The achievement gap leads to an educational debt across generations for certain groups

    • Think of the ways in which the annual trade gap leads to the national debt across the years

  • Used to justify streaming, tracking, ‘leveling’ and FAILURE

  • Leads to negative social, emotional and behavioural outcomes


Disciplinary climate: gap between best and worst mathematics classrooms


Why confusion about assessment?

  • Lack of clarity about the purposes and nature (especially ASN)

  • Beliefs about the predictive power of testing

  • No shared meanings for concepts of…….ability, aptitude, attainment, achievement, standards, and potential

  • Lack of understanding about the differences between formative, summative and ipsative assessment

  • AND between norm-referenced and criterion referenced assessment


When the rules change….


It’s not all bad news: what’s been achieved with achievement and inclusion?

  • Real progress in some schools, BUT problems remain

  • Inclusion does NOT necessarily have a negative impact on the achievement of others

  • Some schools are inclusive AND high achieving

  • Getting it right for children who find learning difficult, brings benefits for all

  • Schools which add the greatest ’value’ often serve the most disadvantaged communities


What are they doing?

  • Recruiting and retaining good teachers

  • Reviewing and clarifying roles

  • Investing in support for teachers as well as students

  • Believing that all children can learn

  • Defining achievement broadly

  • Recognising that learning takes place outside school

    • Connecting with the community

  • Getting involved in collaborative research

  • Providing meaningful alternatives

  • Using the curriculum flexibly to keep pupils connected


What are they doing?

  • Connecting pupils and families to the school

    • Creative arts

    • Extra curricular activities

    • Peer tutoring

    • Homework clubs

    • Learning mentors

    • Community outreach

    • Quality vocational education

  • Raising aspirations and expectations

  • Redefining additional support…the current definition:

    ‘provision which is additional to, or otherwise different from, the educational provision made generally for children……’


Redefining additional support

  • Enhancing what is ‘generally available’ by using the principles of universal design

  • Dealing with difference from the outset

  • Recognising that inclusion is not a denial of difference

  • Not waiting for ‘failure’ before intervening

  • Developing inclusive pedagogy and systems of assessment that recognise progress

  • Focusing on learning, teaching and participation

  • Developing skills for working with other adults

    • Classroom assistants

    • Voluntary sector

    • Parents


A framework for participation

  • Participation and access (being there)

  • Participation and diversity (recognition and acceptance)

  • Participation and collaboration (learning and working together)

  • Participation and achievement (recognising and celebrating progress)

    Adapted from: Black-Hawkins, K., Florian, L. & Rouse,M. (2007) Achievement and Inclusion in Schools. London: Routledge


So…where do we go from here?


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