This paper examines evidence-based practices that can be implemented by schools to enhance literacy and numeracy performance. Educating students in literacy and numeracy is a key responsibility of schools as literacy and numeracy are ‘foundational skills’ that underpin the subsequent development of more complex skills. Literacy and numeracy skills also underpin workforce participation, productivity and the broader economy, and can impact on social and health outcomes. Individuals without these skills are at risk of not being able to participate in the workforce or engage fully in social and civic life.
Intervene early and maintain the focus
Research shows that access to quality early childhood education programs makes a significant and long-term difference to children’s development in many areas, including their cognitive development. Early intervention needs to be followed by continued high quality learning experiences to maintain efficacy. The first three years of school are a peak window within which children develop the literacy and numeracy skills that they will carry into upper primary and secondary school.
Know what students can do and target teaching accordingly
There is a wide range of learning achievement amongst students in Australian schools. Targeted teaching can lift the performance of students who are many years behind and also challenge students who are already well ahead of year-level expectations. In order to implement targeted teaching effectively, teachers need accurate information about what students know and are ready to learn next. This information can be acquired through the use of formative assessment which has been shown to have a significant effect on learning across the spectrum.
Have clear and transparent learning goals
Research shows that having clear and transparent learning goals at both the school and classroom level leads to improvements in learning achievement. Evidence shows that students who experience explicit teaching practices perform better than students who do not. Explicit teaching practice involves teachers clearly showing students what to do and how to do it, rather than having students discover or construct this information for themselves. Well-defined learning continua or progressions support explicit teaching by enabling teachers to understand what is to be learned and to determine accurately students’ current learning achievement.
Focus on teacher professional learning that improves the teaching of literacy and numeracy
High-quality teaching is the greatest in-school influence on student engagement and outcomes. Quality professional learning increases teaching quality. Research indicates that professional learning is most effective if it deepens teachers’ content knowledge and knowledge about how students learn that content; is supported by the wider school community and is seen as part of achieving whole school goals; and is linked to clear and relevant goals that are related to student outcomes.
The information on this page is also available as a one-page summary (PDF, 162kB).
The Connected Communities interim evaluation report (PDF, 2MB) presents qualitative and quantitative findings regarding the implementation and achievement of key deliverables at the midpoint of the five year Connected Communities Strategy. The evaluation aims to answer how well the model has been formed and implemented across schools, as well as outcomes and impact of distinct components of the strategy.
This evaluation (PDF, 1.8MB) examined the impact of Reading Recovery (RR) on students' outcomes in NSW government schools. The evaluation found some evidence that RR has a modest short-term effect on reading skills among the lowest performing students. However, RR does not appear to be an effective intervention for students that begin Year 1 with more proficient literacy skills. In the longer-term, there was no evidence of any positive effects of RR on students' reading performance in Year 3.
Related: Learning Curve 11 - Reading Recovery
Evaluator company/business: Erebus International
URL or PDF: Download the report on Language, learning and literacy in the early years (PDF, 252kB)
Summary: The Language, Learning, Literacy program evaluation aimed to determine whether teachers who undertook professional learning from a qualified trainer developed improved techniques for planning and delivering instruction to small groups and classes. The methodology measured student improvement levels by using students’ end-of-year data gathered from the previous year’s cohort at each school, and compared it with the data of current students and their progress over a school year. The authors stated that the program achieved its goals of: 50 per cent of all students reading and writing above end-of-year expectations and only 20 per cent of students reading and writing below end-of-year expectations.
Authors: Alison Wallace, Lee Holloway, Chloe Harkness and Amanda McAtamney
Evaluator company/business: Urbis
URL or PDF: Download the National Partnership on Literacy and Numeracy - External Evaluation of the Selected NPLN NSW Programs: Evaluation of Mindful Learning Mindful Teaching final report (PDF, 1.9MB)
Summary: The aim of the evaluation was to assess the effectiveness of the Mindful Learning Mindful Teaching (MLMT) program that was designed to build teacher capacity to improve the reading comprehension skills of students. This evaluation involved eight schools and used qualitative and quantitative components including site visits, consultations with all stakeholders, analysis of test data and online surveys. The schools reported a high percentage of LBOTE or ESL students. A high satisfaction rate with the program was shown with teachers indicating MLMT had a positive impact on their literacy teaching practice and gains in reading comprehension for students.
Authors: Alison Wallace, Rohan Pigott, Chloe Harkness and Amanda McAtamney
Evaluator company/business: Urbis
URL or PDF: Download the National Partnership on Literacy and Numeracy - External Evaluation of the Selected NPLN NSW Programs: MULTILIT final report (PDF, 2MB)
Summary: This report presents evaluation findings on the effectiveness of the Making Up Lost Time in Literacy Reading Tutor Program (MULTILIT). Data collection included site visits to nine schools, an online survey, stakeholder interviews and National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy assessment data. Findings from the evaluation revealed there was considerable variation in the implementation of the program approach across the schools with only 16 per cent of schools implementing the recommended number of sessions. Nevertheless, gains were observed in some students assessment data and the majority of survey respondents believed overall the program was effective for improving reading.
Authors: Meg Dione-Rodgers, Susan Harriman, Barry Laing and Wanda Snitch
Evaluator company/business: Program Evaluation Unit, Student Engagement and Program Evaluation Bureau (SEPEB), NSW Department of Education
Summary: The aim of the evaluation was to assess the impact of The Reading to Learn program, which was one of several programs offered under the National Partnership on Literacy and Numeracy (NPLN). The Reading to Learn program promoted a cross-curricula and cross-year approach to learning to read and write. Eighteen schools were involved in the evaluation and measures included site visits, interviews with stakeholders, surveys, analysis of documentation and assessment data. Findings showed that there has been a varied benefit for students however the perceived benefit for teachers was derived from the shared experience of participating in the training, and the renewed focus on literacy learning in each school.
Authors: Meg Dione-Rodgers, Susan Harriman and Barry Laing
Evaluator Company/Business: Program Evaluation Unit, Student Engagement and Program Evaluation Bureau (SEPEB), NSW Department of Education
Summary: This report presents findings from the evaluation of the Accelerated Literacy program in 28 schools, many with a high proportion of Aboriginal students. The evaluation included stakeholder interviews, site visits, an online survey and analysis of administrative and student achievement data. The significant finding of this evaluation is that Accelerated Literacy delivered positive effects for students, teachers and real benefits for school communities.
Authors: Meg Dione-Rodgers, Susan Harriman and Barry Laing
Evaluator Company/Business: Program Evaluation Unit Student Engagement and Program Evaluation Bureau (SEPEB), NSW Department of Education
URL or PDF: Download the National Partnership on Literacy and Numeracy - Report of the Program Evaluation of Individual Learning Plans (PDF, 4MB)
Summary: This report presents findings from the evaluation of Individual Learning Plans (ILPs), one of several initiatives funded under the National Partnership on Literacy and Numeracy (NPLN). The seven schools involved in the program implemented literacy based ILPs as part of a whole -class intervention. The evaluation comprised site visits, interviews and surveys and analysis of documentation including NAPLAN results. Findings were consistent across all schools that ILP’s improved reading outcomes. However, as ILPs were not the only intervention it is difficult to attribute improvement solely to ILPs.
Evaluator company/business: NSW Department of Education and Training, Catholic Education Commission of NSW
URL or PDF: Download the Successful language learners report (PDF, 588kB).
Summary: The Successful Language Learners Whole-school English as a Second Language and Literacy project aimed to improve the English language, literacy and numeracy performance of students learning English as a Second Language (ESL), including refugee students. To achieve this, a multifaceted, integrated approach based on research about what works in schools with high concentrations of ESL learners was used. Eleven NSW schools were involved in the two-year pilot program. The schools were ethnically, religiously and culturally diverse. Data from ESL Scales, SSL Assessment Banks and NAPLAN results were used to evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies in the program. Significant improvements were made by students over the course of the project.