Study finds benefits of extra support for 5th graders

Study finds benefits of extra support for 5th graders

(Va.) Participation in a multi-year summer academy and after-school program led to better performance in math among at-risk fifth and sixth graders up to four years later, according to a new study vetted by the U.S. Department of Education.

About 950 students from schools in Washington D.C. and Alexandria, Va., were randomly assigned through a lottery process to an intervention program that provides eight hours of instruction daily during much of the summer, and an additional four hours daily after school during regular session.

Researchers wanted to know not only if students enrolled in the program would benefit academically but also how that support might impact their choice for high school.

The results were mixed: enrolled students had significantly higher standardized test scores in mathematical problem solving. Also, members of the intervention group were also more likely to be admitted to private high schools and less likely to attend high schools that were not considered highly competitive.

There was, however, no significant statistical difference in reading comprehension between the control group and those the students getting the extra help.

Focus of the study was the Higher Achievement intervention program that uses a multi-year approach aimed at students entering the fifth or sixth grade. The program includes instruction in essential subjects – math, science, social studies and literature. But they also provide weekly field trips and academic competitions.

Classes were kept small – about 13 students – with activities housed in local community centers, which served about 85 students overall.

Of the students that initially were offered the program, most stayed with it at least for the first two years but by the fourth year, attendance dropped off to less than half the original number.

Results were measured using the abbreviated versions of the Reading Comprehension and Math Problem Solving sections of the 10th Edition of the Stanford Achievement Test.