Students who are supported at home and at school achieve more than students with less support. This probably comes as no surprise to most parents and educators, but there are other interesting findings from this recent study. Researchers collected data from 180,000 students, 170,000 parents, 14,000 teachers, and 6,000 principals across 34 countries, looking for the secrets behind creating a culture of excellence. While not identical across countries, they found broad similarities in homes and schools that affect student achievement.

Parents’ emphasis on early literacy activities affects achievement across subjects

“The culture of educational excellence starts in the home,” says co-author Dr. Ina Mullis. “It follows with a school that has a focus on educational success by all the parties concerned – the teachers, the administration, the parents, the students themselves. It continues into the classroom with a teacher that is holding student engagement. We know then we will have students in the end that have a higher achievement, a higher motivation, and actually I think have a higher probability of becoming life-long learners.”

What is particularly interesting and somewhat surprising is the link between reading and achievement in math and science. Science and math instruction varies from country to county. In analyzing the performance results of students from different countries, the study noted that some countries have students who are high achieving in all three subjects (math, science, and reading), while other countries have students that are strong in one subject than the others.

For most countries, data showed that better readers have “a significantly greater advantage over poorer readers mathematics items with high reading demands.” This makes sense because, as the study points out, in-depth content understanding of science, for example, involves greater reading demands. “The effect of concentrating on these literacy activities also enhanced student achievement in mathematics and science,” says Dr. Mullis. “We found that as the amount of reading increased, the students who weren’t very good readers had more and more difficulty with the math and science items. Reading is crucial to success in school. It’s the glue that’s holding it together.”

Reading is fundamental

While not a new idea, the conclusion of the study is impossible to ignore (especially after looking at page after page of graphs): reading is fundamental to learning. “Especially relevant to educational research and policy broadly, though, is that reading is fundamental to further learning. It makes good sense that students who are better readers are therefore better positioned to learn more in mathematics and science as well as in their other subjects.”



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