Newsletter 152 - NEEDU - Schools That Work II - Out of School Factors (External)


“The out-of-school factors (OSFs), sometimes called “outside forces,” affect the learning opportunities of learners, and accordingly limit what schools can accomplish on their own. Hattie’s (2009) synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement suggests that while the school does not have control over two OSFs that have a combined impact of 55% on learner achievement namely, learner ability and home background, it has control over four in-school factors that account for 45% of learner performance. These factors include teacher quality, school environment, peer support and Principal leadership.


Other studies (Grissom et al, 2013; and Sebastian and Allensworth, 2012) also corroborate Hattie’s (2009) findings. These studies suggest that in-school factors that tend to have the most powerful influences on learning are teaching and principal leadership. As noted in Section 4.5, where the in school factors are discussed at length, findings in this study lend credence to these studies. First, we begin with a discussion on contextual factors, including the out-of-school factors, under which high performing schools in this study achieve good results in the NSC examinations.


The extent to which OSFs impact on teaching in the sample of schools in this study corroborates the empirically supported premise that OSFs greatly influence school improvement and that OSFs are not distributed randomly throughout society. Instead, the negative effects of many OSFs are concentrated in the schools that serve learners from economically disadvantaged communities. This increases the burden on these schools to work harder than their more affluent counterparts to make broad reductions in the achievement gap possible.”


‘While research finds a strong relationship between the supporting inputs or OSFs discussed in this section and academic achievement, schools in this study challenge the notion that OSFs have the strength to diminish learners’ academic success. However, this does not, in any way, disparage these schools’ high levels of effort to turn their schools around and to provide their learners with the best possible learning opportunities. These schools work hard to mitigate or diminish the effect of the socioeconomic features on learning. As one Principal lucidly and cogently puts it:

It’s all in the mind. All you need is the right attitude—and lots of it. If you have the right attitude what other schools find impossible, you find it possible. With the right attitude, you will move mountains. (Teacher, Quintile3)


Having explored the conditions under which schools that work operate, in the remaining part of this report, we now turn to practices that these schools exhibit to minimise the effect of these conditions on the quality of curriculum delivery. The high-performing schools attribute their good performance in the NSC results to these practices. The evidence from the schools that work, which is presented in the form of best practices, is quite persuasive that schools can reduce the inequality generated by OSFs and have the potential to offer much greater reductions in the achievement gaps among learners.”


The best practices are discussed below are organised under six themes:

· Support and partnerships,

· Learner-centred climate,

· Enabling conditions,

· School leadership and management,

· Professional development and collaboration, and

· Quality teaching

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