Is instructional leadership the key to being an effective head?

A new article in Educational Researcher examines the associations between leadership behaviours and pupil achievement gains. The authors conducted in-person, full-day observations of approximately 100 head teachers (principals) in urban schools in the US over three school years. They say that although scholars have long argued that heads should be instructional leaders, their findings show that the time the heads spent broadly on instructional functions does not predict pupil achievement growth. Nor did time spent on informal classroom walkthroughs predict pupil growth, particularly in high schools. In contrast, they found that time spent on teacher coaching, evaluation, and developing the school’s educational programme predicted positive achievement gains.

Daniel Willingham provides further analysis of this research in his blog.

Source: Effective Instructional Time Use for School Leaders: Longitudinal Evidence From Observations of Principals (2013), Educational Researcher, 42(8).

A connection between school climate and school success

What makes successful schools different from other schools? What makes a school perform better than predicted given the characteristics of the children it serves? These were the questions posed in this study, which used data from over 1,700 California public middle and high schools. Researchers identified 40 schools that consistently performed better than predicted on standardised tests of maths and English. These schools were labeled “beating-the-odds” (BTO) schools.

The BTO schools had substantially more positive levels of school climate than other schools, as measured by the California Healthy Kids Survey. This examines such dimensions of the school environment as safety, academic supports, social relationships, and school connectedness. BTO schools had climate scores at the 82nd percentile, on average, whereas other schools were at the 49th percentile, on average. Differences in school climate were twice as large between BTO schools and 20 schools that were consistently performing worse than expected.

Source: A Climate for Academic Success: How School Climate Distinguishes Schools That Are Beating the Achievement Odds (2013), California Comprehensive Center.

Pay-for-performance programmes that don’t perform

New research, published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, has analysed the results of three randomised studies of pay-for-performance incentive programmes for teachers. The three programmes considered were: Project on Incentives in Teaching, Project on Team Incentives, and School-Wide Performance Bonus. Findings showed that the programmes did not motivate teachers to make the behavioural changes that lead to pupil achievement gains.

Similarly, the What Works Clearinghouse has released a review of a study into the Chicago Public Schools’ Teacher Advancement Program (Chicago TAP). Chicago TAP provides mentoring, leadership opportunities, and financial incentives to teachers. The study used a randomised controlled trial to examine academic achievement, and a quasi-experiment to examine teacher retention rates. After one year, pupils attending the Chicago TAP schools did not score significantly differently in maths, reading, or science, nor were there statistically significant differences in teacher retention rates between these schools and comparison schools after either one year or two years of implementation.

Sources: Incentive Pay Programs Do Not Affect Teacher Motivation or Reported Practices: Results From Three Randomized Studies (2013), Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 35(1).
WWC Review of the Report “An Evaluation of the Chicago Teacher Advancement Program (Chicago TAP) After Four Years” (2013), What Works Clearinghouse.

RAND Corporation: focus on K-12 education

A new report from the RAND Corporation in the US describes recent RAND work related to K–12 education (primary to sixth form), including teacher pay for performance, measuring teacher effectiveness, school leadership, school systems and reform, and out-of-school time. Headlines include:

  • No evidence that incentive pay for teacher teams improves pupil outcomes
  • Incorporating pupil performance measures into teacher evaluation systems (Recommendations include: (1) promote consistency in the pupil performance measures that teachers are allowed to choose, and (2) use multiple years of pupil achievement data in value-added estimation, and, where possible, use average teachers’ value-added estimates across multiple years.)
  • First-year principals in urban school districts: how actions and working conditions relate to outcomes (A key finding of this study was that teacher capacity and cohesiveness were the school and district conditions most strongly related to pupil outcomes.)

When viewing the report online, each headline links to the corresponding RAND report on the topic.

Source: Focus on K-12 education (2012), RAND

What leads to positive change in teaching practice?

This report presents findings of a National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) study that looks at the research evidence about what leads to positive change in teaching practice in schools.

A literature review, which focused primarily on literature published in English since 2006, identified four factors that affect teaching practice: leadership, planning and preparation, practice development, and monitoring and evaluation. The report also highlights gaps in the evidence that may benefit from further research.

Source: What leads to positive change in teaching practice? (2012), National Foundation for Educational Research

Citizenship education in Europe

This report from the Eurydice network summarises how policies and measures relating to citizenship education have evolved in recent years. Citizenship education has gained prominence in teaching across Europe, with 20 of the 31 countries (EU Member States, Iceland, Norway, Croatia, and Turkey) dedicating a separate compulsory subject to its teaching.

The report focusses in particular on curriculum aims and organisation; student and parent participation in schools; school culture and student participation in society; assessment and evaluation; and support for teachers and school heads.

Citizenship features on the curriculum in all countries, but the authors say that more needs to be done to improve teachers’ knowledge and skills for teaching it. In general, citizenship education is integrated into initial teacher training courses for secondary education in subjects such as history and geography, but only England and Slovakia offer training as a specialist teacher in citizenship education.

Source: Citizenship education in Europe (2012), Eurydice