The effects of head teacher training on pupil achievement

An NBER Working Paper examines the impact of implementing management training for head teachers on pupil achievement. The management training focused on lesson planning, data-driven teaching and teacher observation and coaching (approximately 300 hours over two years). Using a school-level randomised experiment, 58 schools in Houston, Texas, were randomised to receive either the training intervention or to serve as a business-as-usual control group.

The study found that offering management training to head teachers led to increased test scores across low-stakes tests in a range of subjects in year one (effect size = +0.19). For high-stakes test scores in maths and reading, the effect size was lower (+0.10). However, the training intervention had no impact on high-stakes tests in year two.

The training was most beneficial for head teachers who were less experienced, had better maths skills, had more internal locus of control, had higher levels of “grit” and remained in the school for both years of the study.

The intervention showed most impact on teachers in the schools who were more experienced and more educated. The intervention showed most impact for pupils who were new to the school, white or Hispanic and economically well-off.

Source: Management and student achievement: Evidence from a randomized field experiment (May 2017), NBER Working Paper No. 23437, National Bureau of Economic Research


Early results in for teacher leadership programme

A US programme intended to boost pupil achievement by providing teachers with two years of professional development, including formal training sessions and meetings with a leadership coach, is showing signs of potential, according to a new RAND Corporation report.

The Leading Educators (LE) Fellowship programme, selects mid-career teachers through a competitive application process. To examine the impact of LE, researchers are comparing pupil achievement gains for teachers who participated in the programme as fellows or mentees with the pupil achievement gains of other teachers.According to RAND, early findings of the programme are mixed, but suggest that it shows promise in improving pupil achievement. Specifically, they report:

  • Among fellows, there are both some statistically significant positive and negative programme effects on pupil achievement, with results that vary across states, subject areas, and model specifications.
  • Among mentee teachers, for whom sample sizes are larger, there is some suggestive evidence of impacts on pupil achievement — in particular, marginally significant and significant positive programme effects among mentees who teach maths and social studies, respectively, in Louisiana.
  • The impact of the programme on teacher retention is unclear, with no consistent pattern of retention impacts across cohorts or states.

The authors note that the current results are based on few years of data and on a small sample of teachers, and results may change when there are more fellows and mentored teachers included in future studies.

Source: Examining the Early Impacts of the Leading Educators Fellowship on Student Achievement and Teacher Retention (2015), RAND Corporation.

Reviewing the research on school turnaround

This report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) summarises existing research on school turnaround and profiles four schools that used a combination of federal funding and research-based methods to successfully improve outcomes for students.

Among the studies included in the report are:

  • A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research that found that leadership and management changes associated with the school-restructuring No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) sanction showed the strongest positive effects on student achievement, as measured by school- and student-level data.
  • A study from Harvard University that examined the extent to which low-performing traditional public schools that implemented the practices of high-performing charter schools improved student achievement.

CAP’s analysis of the data found that school turnaround is most successful and meaningful when districts take aggressive steps to transform underperforming schools. According to the report, aggressive action on the part of school districts, resources and requirements, governance and staffing changes, data-driven decision making, and a focus on school culture and nonacademic supports for disadvantaged students are all part of an evidence-based set of best practices that are key to successful school turnaround.

Source: Dramatic action, dramatic improvement: the research on school turnaround (2015), Center for American Progress

Monitoring inspections help head teachers to focus

A new report from Durham University forms part of a comparative study to measure the impact of school inspections on teaching and learning in eight European countries.

This report describes the results from three years of data collection in England, which ran from January 2011 to December 2013. Each year head teachers in primary and secondary schools were asked to complete an online survey. The survey included questions on educational quality and change capacity in schools, changes made in the quality and change capacity of the school, inspection activities in the school, the school’s acceptance and use of feedback, the extent to which inspection standards set expectations and promote self-evaluations, and choice/voice/exit of stakeholders in response to inspection reports. The survey results were used to create a number of scales, such as capacity building, school effectiveness, setting expectations, and accepting feedback.

The authors found that on all the scales used, in the first two years of data collection, schools that received their main inspection and an extra monitoring inspection scored higher on average than the schools that received only a main inspection. In the third year, this was also true on almost all scales. A number of these differences (particularly the scales where schools were commenting on their improvement activities compared to last year) were large and statistically significant in the first year of data collection.

Source: Years 1, 2 and 3 Principal Survey Data Analysis: England (2014), Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring, Durham University.

School leader programme shows positive effects

This report from the RAND Corporation presents findings from a formative and summative evaluation of New Leaders, a programme that recruits and trains head teachers to serve in urban schools in the US. The study took place from 2006 to 2013 and examined the programme’s implementation and effects in ten districts.

The study used an approach that isolated the effect of New Leaders head teachers themselves from other conditions in the districts that might also influence student performance. Data sources included analysis of student-achievement data for students led by New Leaders head teachers and comparable students in other schools, head teacher surveys, analysis of survey data linked to student-achievement data, analysis of head teacher tenure data, and nested case studies of first-year head teachers.

Researchers found that at the primary school level, spending at least three years in a school with a New Leaders-trained head teacher resulted in achievement gains of 0.7 to 1.3 percentile points. At the secondary school level, students in schools where the New Leaders head teachers had three or more years of experience saw gains in reading achievement of about 3 percentile points.

The authors note that the magnitudes of achievement effects varied substantially across districts, and they also varied across head teachers. Possible explanations for this included, for example, district-wide changes that give advantages to all head teachers, not just New Leaders head teachers.

Source: Preparing Principals to Raise Student Achievement: Implementation and Effects of the New Leaders Program in Ten Districts (2014), RAND Corportation.

Weak links between teacher perception surveys and student outcomes

This report from the Institute of Education Sciences provides information on how perception data from a teacher survey in Idaho correlated with student outcomes that school improvement efforts seek to affect. The survey was the Educational Effectiveness Survey (EES), an annual teacher survey developed and administered by the Center on Educational Effectiveness to gather data on school qualities believed to be the goals, processes, and supports essential for school success.

A total of 75 low-achieving schools received the survey, and 1,745 teachers (91%) responded. The teachers rated their perceptions of their school on topics such as effective school leadership; curriculum, instruction, and assessment aligned with standards; and focused professional development.

Analyses of the survey data and publicly available data from the Idaho State Department of Education revealed that teachers’ perceptions of the presence of essential goals, processes, and supports were generally not related to students’ reading proficiency, math proficiency, or attendance. According to the report, these findings suggest that educators should proceed cautiously when using perceptual survey data to make school improvement decisions.

Source: Connections Between Teacher Perceptions of School Effectiveness and Student Outcomes in Idaho’s Low-Achieving Schools (2014), Institute of Education Sciences.