Students from disadvantaged social backgrounds generally perform worse academically than those deemed to be “advantaged”, according to NAPLAN, PISA and other measures. However, this is not always the case. Some students and schools deemed to be disadvantaged are successful, but up until now relatively little research has taken place to try and determine why this is the case.
The recent report Overcoming the Odds: A study of Australia’s top-performing disadvantaged schools (Joseph, 2019) is focused on the ways successful schools that are deemed to be socio-economically disadvantaged have gone on to perform well.
One of the conclusions of the report is that some of the key weapons in combatting disadvantage in education are the use of data-informed practice, as well as direct and explicit instruction. The use of these helped put some of the top-performing disadvantaged schools where they are today.
CARS & STARS Online is uniquely placed to help disadvantaged schools and students in this area because it has been designed from the ground up to bring the benefits of data gathering and implementation to the classroom through the use of ongoing and targeted formative assessment and instruction.
The report observed that the most common features of lessons in the high-performing yet disadvantaged schools it studied were “a defined and stated lesson objective; immediate feedback; review of previously taught content; clear and unambiguous language; the teacher frequently checking for student understanding; the teacher demonstrating the knowledge or skill to be learnt; and students practising new skills with teacher guidance” (Joseph, 2019, p. 9).
CARS & STARS Online perfectly complements these features. Each lesson clearly and explicitly states what students are to do and the consistency of objectives and instruction throughout the program means that students are never in the dark as to why they are doing it.
Students receive immediate feedback from the program as to whether the response they are entering is correct and are frequently kept abreast of their progression. Benchmark and Post-Test sections reinforce and review content and concepts as a built-in part of the program, rather than an extra feature, and the program also features regular student self-assessments.
The language used throughout the program is both clear and consistent, couching exercises in familiar terms that recur at every instructional level, while gradually increasing difficulty and student skill required in the activities and reading passages.
With CARS & STARS Online’s unique, instant and data-driven approach, teachers are able to constantly monitor student progress and instantly recognise any gaps in understanding. These can be directly remedied with targeted teacher guidance and specific modelling of problem exercises, because the teacher will be in no doubt as to precisely what aspect of instruction requires further clarification due to the constant monitoring the program makes available.
CARS & STARS Online brings data-driven instruction to the classroom in a way that is both uniquely targeted and easy to administer. For disadvantaged schools and students, it offers a way of teaching directly and informedly that is unparalleled in the field of reading comprehension instruction.