The grants have come from the Learning Impact Fund, a new initiative addressing the lack of rigorous evidence on the cost and effectiveness of educational practice in Australian schools. The Fund’s purpose is to identify, fund and evaluate programs that will raise the academic achievement of Australian children, especially those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
It is part of a broader suite of education initiatives from the Evidence for Learning (E4L) enterprise, which has been incubated by Social Ventures Australia (SVA) with the support of the Commonwealth Bank and the Education Endowment Foundation. E4L aims to help arrest the decline in educational achievement in Australia, shown through international studies like the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), by encouraging a culture of evidence informed practice in Australian classrooms.
At a launch event in Melbourne, SVA’s CEO Rob Koczkar said the purpose of E4L was to build, share and encourage the use of evidence in Australian schools.
Funding of $880,000 will be allocated to the two grant recipients, with the majority going towards an expansion of those programs, and the other portion funding a rigorous evaluation. The evaluations will estimate the impact on achievement and cost per student for each program, and will be conducted as randomised controlled trials.
QuickSmart Maths is designed for students who are underperforming in maths. Students work in pairs with a trained tutor for 30 minutes each week, with flashcards and timed performance activities used to assist them to develop automatic recall. Early evaluations show that students participating in the program gain an extra 7 – 12 months’ progress in a year when compared with those that have not participated. Schools also report increased engagement in class and increased attendance by Indigenous students participating in QuickSmart.
Thinking Maths supports Year 7 and Year 8 teachers to engage all students more deeply in learning maths. Teachers participate in five professional learning days over two terms, implementing what they’ve learned in their classrooms between the sessions. Thinking Maths has been designed to address the drop in maths performance between year 7 and 9 identified in NAPLAN results.
Professor John Hattie, Director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, Chair of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) and Chair of E4L’s Expert Reference Council, spoke about the importance of improving the use of research evidence in Australian education.