Child's face  MyRead: strategies for reaching reading in the middle years
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who
what
how
explicit teaching
scaffolding
monitoring and assessment
classroom organisation
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further readings
acknowledgements

 

LITERACY AFTER THE EARLY YEARS:
A LONGITUDINAL STUDY

Barbara Comber, Lynne Badger, Jenny Barnett and Helen Nixon
University of South Australia
Jane Pitt
Department of Education Training and Employment, South Australia

As an educational community we know relatively little about the everyday school lives of primary school-aged children attending schools in low socioeconomic communities, about the literacies they are taught, those they engage with, and those they take up and use as their own. This article reports on a school-based research study that aimed to contribute new knowledge in this area.

Literacy after the early years: a longitudinal study

Internationally, children living in low socio-economic circumstances are statistically more likely to perform at a lower level on standardised measures of literacy than more affluent children. However, some children ‘beat the odds’ and do better than expected. As an educational community we know relatively little about the everyday school lives of primary school-aged children attending schools in low socio-economic communities; about the literacies they are taught; those they engage with, and those they take up and use as their own. We know next to nothing about children’s school trajectories from ages 8-12; yet we do know that this is a crucial period where children are establishing their personal, social and academic identities, where they are thinking about who they are and who they can be. This article summarises a research study that aimed to contribute new knowledge in this area. (1)

The study, we believe, has relevance for primary school teachers in a variety of contexts. In all schools there are children whose families experience socio-economic disadvantage. In all schools there are students with a great range of literate repertoires and capabilities and children with diverse linguistic and cultural heritages. Everywhere there are children growing up into a differently literate world than that which we inhabited as children and as adults; where different proficiencies count (searching the Internet or making a web page); and where the possibilities for representing meanings are vast and ever-expanding. We hope, too, that teachers of students of all ages may find it rewarding to reflect on what constitutes literacy in their classrooms and what kinds of instruction are working for their students.

Purposes of the project

While there has been considerable attention lately to outcome levels and benchmarks, there is a dearth of recent studies that closely consider the ‘what’ of literacy. In this study, our overriding purpose was to consider the actual nature of the literate repertoires children assemble in the middle years at primary school situated in poor communities. Specific aims were to:

  • find out which literate practices children in these socio-economically disadvantaged school were given access to and practice in
  • analyse what individual children took from the classroom literacy curricula
  • Document and analyse assessment information from sources available in the system, including teachers, students, national and state literacy tests.
  • better theorise the relationship between the development of student literacies, the provision of literacy curriculum, and the assessment of literacy outcomes.

The project is important for two main reasons. Firstly, little ethnographic longitudinal research has been done in Australia to look closely at the school lives and literacy achievement of children growing up in schools serving low socio-economic communities (see Freebody et al. 1995). Secondly, relatively few studies have considered either literacy curricula or literacy development in the middle years of primary school (Allington & Johnston 2000, Gee 2000, Snow et al. 1991, Snow et al. 1998). Yet a number of educators have suggested that the gap between the literacy performance of students living in low socio-economic circumstances increases, rather than decreases as we might expect, after the early years of schooling (see for example Badger et al. 1993, Hill et al 1998). Further, some educators now speak of a ‘fourth-grade slump’ (Gee 2000, Education Queensland 2000, Snow et al. 1998), which suggests that there may be unexplained changes in school literacy tasks which impact differentially on children’s development at this point.

Given these gaps in the professional literature, we aimed to produce:

  • a series of longitudinal case studies of literacy development among primary-aged students in three socio-economically disadvantaged school communities
  • an analysis of students’ literacy development, teachers’ literacy pedagogies, and the local application of curriculum reforms in socio-economically disadvantaged schools.
  • professional resources designed to extend teachers’ knowledge about children’s literacy development and to improve teaching practice.

Project design

It was our intention to look at what was going on from an anthropological perspective. That is, we wanted to see what counted as literacy for specific children and their teachers, in particular classrooms, in particular schools, at this particular time. By using a longitudinal design and focussing on middle primary schooling, we sought to make an original contribution to the field of literacy studies in Australia, and beyond. The project was designed to produce detailed longitudinal case studies of the literacy experiences of individual students in three schools receiving funds under the Disadvantaged Schools Component of the Commonwealth Literacy Program (formerly the Commonwealth Disadvantaged Schools Program). Such schools all serve communities that are disadvantaged by low socio-economic conditions, and sometimes also by distance, language, race and cultural differences. However, disadvantaged schools are not all of a piece. They differ considerably in terms of their population, size, structure, history, ethos, location and so on. The three schools attended by the case study children exemplify these differences.

Students were selected on the basis of membership in categories of students statistically known to underachieve (e.g. students in poverty, Aboriginal students, students using English as their second language and students in isolated areas). As the project was financed in part by funds marked for DETE’s equity agenda, it was important that the case studies included children in the target categories wherever possible. Unfortunately, none of the Year Three cohorts in the three schools included Aboriginal children, even though each school had a higher than average enrolment of Aboriginal students. The original cohort of 21 included 10 boys and 11 girls, (including six children who were the focus studies of an earlier research trial). In selecting case study children, the researchers consulted with teachers and endeavoured to work with children who were School Card holders (2), whilst accepting that their status might change across the project.

Our object in this work was to explore what each particular child took from the literacy curriculum on offer in each class and to describe the literacies they were acquiring at school. Thus, our goal was not to compare children on a pre-developed grid of competencies, but rather to inductively analyse the kinds of literacies they were learning; the factors shaping their uptake; and each child’s way of doing literacy in the school. On this basis, we hoped to be able to draw some conclusions about children’s pathways to literacy in and for the middle years of primary.

The research employed ethnographic and interpretive research methodologies. We also drew upon critical and feminist research and on principles of participatory research. In practice, this meant that the team was committed to:

  • the importance of extended and intensive observation and interviews
  • respect for teachers’ and students’ standpoints and perspectives
  • the need to understand institutional locations
  • the need to consider the local in the context of the national and global.

In this project literacy is understood as being socially constructed in everyday institutional and discursive practices. Thus it is in day-to day living that student differences (such as socio-economic status, race, bilingualism, gender, location) can impact on how literacy is learned, taught and assessed. From this perspective, literacy is not seen as a unitary skill on a single developmental scale, but as repertoires of practice that are learnt in use over time with assistance from teachers, parents and peers.

Three main methods of generating data were employed: gathering of classroom and school artefacts; participant interviews with case study students and teachers; and classroom observation. The data comprised the ordinary, everyday practices of teachers and students including (a) units of work extending over several weeks, (b) individual student activity, and (c) whole-class assessment practices. The different data sets produced a rich picture of the curriculum that was offered, how students engaged with it, what they produced through it, and how teachers assessed students’ performances.

The writing of case studies was guided by three key research questions:

  • Which literate practices are these children given access to and practice in?
  • What do these children take up from what is on offer?
  • What changes in literacy development are evident over time?

In addition, other school, classroom and assessment data was analysed. For instance, teacher-written student reports were subjected to critical discourse analytic approaches in order to identify how literacy progress was constituted in these documents (Comber 1996, 1997b). Analysis of the literacy curricula was informed by critical frameworks for understanding literacy as social and cultural practices (Freebody & Luke 1990, Durrant & Green 1998, 2001, Green, 1988). Such frameworks emphasise that literacy requires more than mastery of the operational aspects of cracking the code, which is a necessary but insufficient resource for participating in contemporary schooling and community life. It also requires an understanding of how to use language in particular situations and how to analyse the effects of particular textual practices.

Research findings

In this section of the paper we attempt to distil some of the key findings that may inform policy, school and classroom practice, teacher education and further research. These were formulated by reading across the case study and school data over time. The findings are grouped under three specific focuses:

  • Socio-economically disadvantaged children – what did the case study students bring to school?
  • The literacy curriculum on offer in the middle primary years – what did the case study children make of that?
  • Literacy teaching and learning in the project schools – what is needed to make it work?

Socio-economically disadvantaged children – what did the case study students bring to school?

  • Children in middle primary classrooms had acquired a vast and varied array of literate practices from family and community life and early schooling. To put it simply, there was a very great range in what these children could do with words. Some children had extremely sophisticated practices; some children were getting started with print. Some children were literate in more than one language; some were learning English as an additional language. The range of competencies children differentially had under control included:
  • Reading picture books or junior novels
  • Writing a readable diary entry
  • Producing reports or illustrated stories
  • Searching the Internet for games, favourite sports and media sites
  • Putting literacy to work in community, school and family contexts by writing letters, guides and invitations.

Children had differential linguistic, cultural capital and literate resources. Some children had resources that matched those valued by the school and some did not. Students well positioned in this regard had resources acquired at home that included:

  • family knowledge and involvement in the performative arts which called for public display such as drama, public speaking, choir and so on
  • knowledge of ‘business’ practices through engagement with family accounts and record-keeping
  • expertise with personal or family libraries, diaries, calendars, and computers.

Other children may have had resources which they were unable to make use of at school because they remained invisible or disconnected from the curriculum, or because they were seen as inappropriate or irrelevant for school (e.g. forms of computing, bilingualism, knowledge of popular culture and media genres). Whether children were able to use their existing repertoires of practice was contingent on what teachers judged as valuable or appropriate. Some children were able to use their existing repertoires of practice on a continual basis; for other children there were many fewer connections and they had to do more work to make sense of school assignments and processes.

Some children because they were not yet fluently bilingual, had difficulty in fully engaging with the curriculum. In the early stages of becoming bilingual, students were not able to fully address the curriculum on offer. This may be either because they had not previously engaged with the cultural experiences assumed in the curriculum. If the curriculum missed was not revisited later on, what they had missed remained a gap in their learning. We saw students who were making good progress in learning English, but who nevertheless tended to miss the significance of key points in their reading and in their teachers’ presentations. Also, they were sometimes unable to engage meaningfully with the grammar lessons on offer to the whole class, and certain phonic approaches to spelling. For all of these students, even those most fluent in English, participating in whole class discussion was limited to occasions when their teacher nominated them to speak. Teachers could not assume full access to all aspects of the curriculum.

The literacy curriculum on offer in the middle primary years Î what did the case study children make of that?

Middle primary school literacies frequently featured practices and ways of organising curriculum that were different from the early years literacies. Common practice in primary school curriculum included resource-based learning (projects), spelling and theme-based contracts, the production of set genres (e.g. reports, procedures, recounts, narratives), sheet literacies (i.e. photocopied sheets with spelling, punctuation and vocabulary exercises), library time, and using computers. These practices sometimes require students to maintain a sense of the task, plot and purpose over extended time periods. This meant that students needed to develop understanding of the curriculum logic or literate practices beyond the immediate literacy task. They were expected to listen to and understand teachers’ explanations of assignments and internalise consistent features of genres or work practices so that they could apply them elsewhere. They were expected to be independent and responsible in knowing where they were up to and how to proceed. In order to meet these expectations, students needed to have some investment in the program, the content and in schooling. They could rarely simply pick up on a moment-by-moment basis what they needed for the lesson.

Middle primary school academic work was contingent upon children being able to read and write well enough to engage in and display learning. A great deal of the academic curriculum from middle primary school onwards required that children could not only read and write, but also that they could learn new concepts and information (and display such learning) through their textual practices. For example, children in many different classrooms were expected to learn about animal behaviour, habitats and predators. Using resource-based learning approaches, teachers assigned tasks that required extended reading of multiple texts in the hunt for answers to specific questions. Sometimes these tasks then needed to be reassembled into extended assignments know as ‘contracts’ or ‘projects’. The display of learning expected by teachers often required a combination of talk and the production of verbal and visual hybrid texts as ‘published’ artefacts for permanent display or record. Doing school properly in primary school was contingent on children having increasingly independent literate practices. Children were expected to be able to find, locate, sort and organise material in print and in electronic form. The curriculum was largely organised through reading, writing and talking and it was assumed that children could appropriate new knowledge by reading and listening. They were assumed to be able to replicate the texts they read and to transform information for their own purposes.

Middle primary school literacy expectations emphasised ‘communicative depth’, in terms of quantity, detail and interest. Primary teachers were not satisfied with children simply reading and writing. There was an expectation that students would produce material that was inherently interesting, accurate, detailed and of sufficient quality to display their knowledge, thoughts and understandings. This set of expectations was central in teachers’ explicit instruction and in the feedback they gave, and featured in in-term reports. Students were expected to write for their readers and speak with an audience’s needs in mind. There was an increasing expectation that students would be able to effectively present, perform and display greater ‘depth’ of understanding and learning. Communication of the ‘content’ of what they have learnt as well as an understanding of what they have achieved in learning was expected in many classrooms we observed. Students were also expected to engage with and produce complex and extended texts, including a range of genres in a range of media.

It was clear that even within the same classroom in the same schools, children in middle primary classroom were assembling different repertoires of literate practices. When children acquire literate practices they become expert in the practices of their community (classroom, school, peer, home). Because new expertise is always contingent upon what children already know and can do, what they have access to and the extent to which they make use of what is on offer, they may finish middle primary school not only with different levels of competence, but with competence in different practices. The diversity of literate proficiencies and practices became extremely visible at this time of school. Children were making multiple and different kinds of meanings and assembling different repertoires of literate practices. An issue for teachers is ensuring that children acquire the kinds of literate practices upon which school learning is contingent. A further issue is the extent to which children appropriate and see as valuable the literacies on offer as relevant and useful in everyday life.

Middle primary students were expected to acquire self-reflective practices as a key move in becoming independent. In the primary years there was an expectation that not only would children be able to do the task required, but that they would have developed or were developing meta-awareness of their strategies for learning and solving problems. Teachers regularly articulated strategies for learning, reading, writing, spelling and so on, and encouraged children to similarly understand and articulate their processes in terms of their effectiveness and productivity. Literacy lessons played a central role in teachers’ efforts to enhance children’s meta-cognitive and meta- linguistic awareness. Literacy was seen as a tool for learning, as an object of learning and as a social practice needed for full membership of the school community.

We saw children who were engaged superficially in school tasks, but not connected with substantive pedagogical purposes, logic or academic concepts. Some children’s literate repertoires allowed them to produce parts of tasks with continual support from peers and teachers, yet they showed no evidence of understanding the fundamental object of the lesson or assignment. Even though such children may have received explicit teaching and ongoing scaffolding to keep them participating, they appeared not to acquire the principles, purpose, or schema for the academic focus. The assistance they sought was often at the level of ‘What do we have to do next?” Their practices featured copying from peers and other textual resources, extensive use of erasers and pencil sharpeners, and frequent help-seeking. Their requests for help, their questions and their orientation to the task indicated that they were operating at a surface level of understanding of what was required. While they sometimes ultimately produced assignments that appeared similar to those of their peers, it was an illusion of parity, because they had not independently been able to understand the purposes of the task, the key concepts informing it or how to proceed with it. It was not that no learning or achievement was being made in such cases, but that teachers could not assume that these children were learning what they had intended.

Students acquired school literacies via different trajectories. Some children appeared to make a relatively slow start in one or more aspects of their literacy learning (e.g. spelling or reading or writing) and then make breakthroughs that led them to accelerate and orchestrate their progress across modes. Teachers, parents and these children seemed to believe not only that everything would fall into place (and, indeed, it seemed to), but that they would do well. In fact, several such children became high achieving students by upper primary. For these children, a crucial factor appeared to be the undoubted ‘belief’ in their capacity to do well. However, other children who began well failed to live up to their expected potential and seemed to plateau after good early progress (as indicated by school reports). Still other children who began to acquire literate practices very slowly, at the end of the study still had a fragile relationship with schooling, literacy and learning. In other words, there were a number of different ‘patterns of development’ within the slice of time of the research study. A complex challenge for middle school teachers is to be alert to these differences and plan curricula, textual resources, and pedagogy that take this range into account.

Literacy teaching and learning in the project schools Î what is needed to make it work?

Teaching literacy in low socio-economic communities requires highly skilled and committed teachers. Since 1975, the Federal government of Australia has provided extra resources to schools serving socio-economically disadvantaged communities. From the Disadvantaged Schools Program of the last three decades to the Commonwealth Literacy Program, there has been the recognition of the need to differentially resource schools and families suffering financial hardship. This study confirms that the nature of teachers’ work in schools in poor communities is highly complex and demanding. This study also confirms that children and their families in these schools have suffered from the effects of poverty, unemployment, moving house on numerous occasions (and sometimes from country to country and from city to countryside). Sometimes these effects have long-term impact, as with illness and dislocation. Some children and their families also have to deal with learning English as a second language as well as racism within the wider community. Poverty changes the way families live and means that they have less economic capital to assist them in resourcing their children’s education. Poverty does not mean that the children come to school with no resources. Indeed, the children in this study, and their families and teachers, were extremely resourceful but they had to continually work at it: nothing could be taken for granted, and nothing came easily, This research strongly supports the need for ongoing supplemental assistance in order that teachers can really make a difference to the educational opportunities of the young people in their classrooms.

Teachers’ pedagogies represented an amalgam of school priorities and ethos, professional experience and knowledge, accumulated wisdom and available resources. Teachers did not simply follow one approach or program; rather the evidence suggested that they were constantly assembling their pedagogical resources and know-how. This study indicates that teachers had particular principles and beliefs that guided their practices and helped them to prioritise. Specific techniques and curriculum were inflected with teachers’ professional styles and the school ethos. Hence resource-based learning was very different in different classrooms with different teachers designing an enacting the curriculum. A ‘spelling’ time slot meant something different to different teachers. There were traces of creative writing, process writing and genre-based curriculum within a single classroom. The resources available also made a difference. For instance, access to library resources, literature, text and workbooks (e.g. spelling), computers and software materials for writing and publication: all made a difference to what teachers attempted. The material resources for school literacies are crucial to children’s learning. These are not simply tools, but the actual representational materials with which children learn to make meanings.

Teachers highly valued one-to-one and small group pedagogical occasions where intensive targeted teaching and immediate feedback could be provided. A number of children in the study needed considerable support to participate successfully in the curriculum on offer. This support included intensive assistance with writing, targeted instruction in reading, close monitoring of attention and organisation and clarification of the language of tasks, concepts and procedures. All children in the study needed this kind of assistance from time to time. Some children in the study needed this kind of support almost every lesson. Teachers reported that when whole school structures allowed for an extra adult in the classroom during literacy lessons, they felt able to give the quality of teaching that was essential to the progress of children with difficulties. Often this was done through the support of an ESL teacher or a school service officer (SSO). Given the very great differences in students’ proficiencies, teachers needed to adapt their teaching continuously so that all children could benefit from it.

Literacy assessments occurred throughout classroom activities and across the curriculum. Assessment was integral to classroom practice and, in some cases, built into a diagnostic approach to teaching where teachers continuously monitored children’s take-up of literate practices, attitudes and understandings. Often this work was achieved orally, with teachers providing an almost continuous flow of feedback to the class as a whole and targeted towards specific individuals. In one case, the school developed an explicit written response format that indicated to students how their writing measured up against genre-specific criteria. Sometimes teachers’ assessments were intended to act as a jolt to students who were judged to be performing under their capabilities. In other cases, what might have objectively looked like a very poor performance, may have been assessed as good work for a particular student. As well as ongoing classroom assessments, schools had developed their own ways of auditing students’ literacy performances. One school, for instance, made its own standards against which children were assessed with the distinct purpose of deciding how resources were used and how students should be grouped. The important finding here was that teachers and school leaders were highly conscious of assessing at individual, class and cohort levels. They used their assessments to work out what particular students needed as well as to construct their whole class literacy programs.

Literacy reporting was shaped by whole-school structures for reporting more generally, and by the constructions teachers placed on literacy. Different kinds of information about literacy were made available through different reporting procedures. All of these reporting options constructed literacy in different and complementary ways, and those needed to be considered together in order to understand students’ literacy development. Portfolios of students’ work and parent-teacher or three-way interviews provided opportunities for individualised comments directly relating to assessment tasks and work samples. Report cards provided opportunities for normative comments relating to the curriculum as a whole and the individual student in relation to the cohort. The extent to which literacy was a key focus (or not) in report cards used one of two organising principles: learning areas or key competencies backed up by comments on students’ dispositions towards schooling in general. While spaces allocated to English and to communication skills provided the opportunities for reporting on literacy, teachers also reported on it across the curriculum and under other key competencies, particularly in regard to information technology.

Conclusion

Many educational researchers paint a bleak picture of how children from low socio-economic backgrounds experience schooling and of their educational and literacy outcomes (Guice & Brooks 1977, Haberman 1991, Polakow 1993). However, this study is one of several that depict the complex and positive work that is going on in schools and is making a difference to students’ learning (Allington & Johnston 2000, Gregory & Williams 2000). A central rationale for this study was the need to explore teacher- learner interactions and literacy lessons which work for students. Fortunately, we are not in the position of some researchers who have been faced with results they would have preferred not to report (Guice & Brooks 1997). Nevertheless, the research report is not entirely celebratory. Having taken the perspective of students, we endeavoured to demonstrate the connections and the mismatches, the breakthroughs and the confusions.

We have argued that the literacy development in the primary years is contingent on a number of interrelated factors, both in the home and school environments. A lot has been written and said about the effects of children’s home lives on children’s literacy learning. We believe that children’s home lives do need to be taken into account, and in particular that the possible effects of poverty be anticipated. Illness, family dislocation, unemployment and so on do make a difference in the lives of families and to children’s learning. Yet it is equally important to work against deficit equations about poverty and illiteracy (Comber 1997a, Freebody et al. 1995, Gregory & Williams 2000). Hence education systems must work on at least two fronts: one, to ensure that students are provided with all the resources they need to engage with and learn from the program and two, designing and delivering a program that is both culturally responsive and futures-driven. That is, it must both work with what students bring, and offer them the new discursive resources and literate practices that they do not yet have.

What was working for young people in literacy lessons in these school communities? The case studies show that children had access to and appropriated many literate practices and learning strategies that their teachers modelled and made important. We saw children emerging as strategic learners with skills and dispositions that should stand them in good stead throughout their educational trajectories. But if we could add further to the complex mix that teachers provided, what might we suggest?

We have described the emphasis in these years as being on ‘communicative depth’. Students were engaged in the production and comprehension of more detailed and complex texts. We saw relatively little analytical work around language and textual practices Î what has been described elsewhere as critical literacy (Comber & Simpson 2001, Lankshear 1994, Luke 2000) or critical language awareness (Janks 1993). Rather, the literate practices we observed tended to emphasise the operational and cultural dimensions (Durrant & Green 2001, Green 1988). Yet we observed more analytical work in the previous research trial when the children were in Year Three (Comber et al 2001) so we know that these students were capable or engaging with critical and analytical dimensions of literate practices. The lack of emphasis on critical analysis may have coincided with competing priorities as teachers introduced children to reading and writing to learn. However, there were many opportunities for discussion about the relationship may have coincided with competing priorities as teachers introduced children to reading and writing to learn. However, there were many opportunities for discussion about the relationships between language use, knowledge and power that were not exploited by teachers. Where such critical work did occur it was often in relation to television, movies, advertising and popular culture, as if those were the areas requiring critical scrutiny. Other kinds of informational texts, such as encyclopedias, were treated as factual and authoritative. If we lay a grid across the curriculum on offer we can see that teachers tended to privilege particular versions of literacy during the primary years. Being literate in these classrooms meant becoming readers and writers, who could use literate practices to meet particular requirements, organise themselves and work to a schedule. Accomplishing these practices was valuable, crucial even, for children’s take-up of the wider academic curriculum. We raise the issue of the diminished role of the critical and analytical here because we believe that this is equally central in children’s ongoing learning and literacy development.

Many studies of effective teaching in high poverty schools reduce their findings to lists of teacher attributes, program features or pedagogical do’s and don’ts (for a useful synthesis, see Allington & Johnston 2000). A number of such studies make it seem as though successful teaching is all or nothing, but this is not what we found. In our study, teaching and learning were highly complex interactive activities that required continual negotiation and monitoring.

In terms of school-related factors that affect children’s literacy development, the study shows the profound affect of both school and classroom practices. Of particular note are school structures designed to facilitate one-to-one and small group interactions, and teachers’ classroom discourses designed to develop particular literate dispositions. We argue that the following factors at school make a difference to what children learn:

  • the recognition factor (the extent to which what children can do counts and they can see that it counts)
  • the resources factor (the extent to which schools have human and material resources they need)
  • the curriculum factor (the quality, scope and depth of what is made available)
  • the pedagogical factor (the quality of teacher instructional talk, teacher-student relationships and assessment practices)
  • the take-up factor(the extent to which children appropriate literate practices and school authorised discourses)
  • the translation factor (the extent to which children can make use of and assemble repertoires of practice which they can use in new situations).

These factors indicate that it is the relationship between what schools and teachers provide, and what students are able to do with that, which makes a difference in the literacies children assemble at school.


Notes

  1. The study, Socio-economically Disadvantaged Students and the Development of Literacies in School: A Longitudinal Study, was a collaborative research project (no C79804522) between the Disadvantaged Schools Component of the Commonwealth Literacy Program, in the South Australian Department of Education, Training and Employment (DETE) and the Centre for Studies in Literacy, Policy and Learning Cultures, University of South Australia between 1998 and 2000. The research was jointly funded by a grant from DETE and the Australian Research Council (ARC) Strategic Partnership with Industry Research Partners (SPIRT) scheme. The views herein do not necessarily represent the views of DETE SA.
  2. School cards are given to families whose socio-economic circumstances are such that they are allocated health cards. It is a recognised indicator of poverty in schools.

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