Latest Edu-Reads

Bellwether has two great posts today in honor of National Special Education Day. Lynne Graziano reflects on her sister-in-law’s educational experience without an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or social supports. Speaking of which, Sara Mead writes about the 460,000 students served in special education preschool.

Lina Bankert and Lauren Schwartze on how mergers among education nonprofits can improve student outcomes and save school districts money.

The Fordham Institute is hosting an event (with free food!) to discuss Checker Finn’s new book, Learning in the Fast Lane: The Past, Present, and Future of Advanced Placement

Housing assistance programs that improve a child’s neighborhood can also have a long-term effect on voting rates.

Andy Rotherham interviews law professor Jack Coons, who litigated the Serrano v. Priest cases, which challenged California’s school funding structure.

While so many other places are turning away from teacher evaluation efforts, kudos to DCPS for sticking with theirs. A new study from Thomas Dee, Jessalynn James, and James Wyckoff finds those efforts are continuing to pay off:

The large effects we identify here suggest that rigorous teacher evaluation can be sustained over at least an eight-year period. We observe these effects across years, implying IMPACT has led to a cumulative improvement in teaching quality and student achievement. These gains benefit students who primarily come from nonwhite, low-income households.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman

What Causes Teachers to Leave?

A new meta-analysis synthesizes the findings from 120 research papers on the causes of teacher attrition and retention. Contrary to popular opinion, perhaps, they find that measuring and acting on differences in teacher quality does not lead to decreased morale or higher attrition rates:

Being evaluated, even for accountability purposes, does not necessarily increase teacher attrition; in fact, the odds of attrition for teachers who are assessed are somewhat smaller than those who are not. In terms of teacher effectiveness, higher quality teachers are less likely to exit than lower quality teachers, and there is evidence that teachers in the lowest quartile or quintile of value-added scores are more likely to leave teaching. Relatedly, teachers in merit pay programs are less likely to leave teaching than those who are not.

Specifically on the question of evaluations and merit pay, they write:

Moreover, contrary to some concerns about the negative effects of teacher evaluations and accountability (Darling-Hammond, 2013; Darling-Hammond, Amrein-Beardsley, Haertel, & Rothstein, 2012), we do not find that performance evaluations necessarily increase teacher attrition. The extant empirical evidence suggests that when teachers are evaluated and their measures of effectiveness are available to them, this does not increase attrition, but in fact, it may provide teachers with some sense of empowerment and the possibility of growth and improvement since they can observe where they are effective and where they are not, leading to a decrease in attrition (Boyd et al., 2008; Feng, 2010). Furthermore, even when teacher evaluations are being used for accountability, bonuses, or pay raises, we observe that teachers are less, not more, likely to leave teaching. Relatedly, we also have evidence that evaluation and accountability may improve the teacher workforce by keeping the most effective teachers and removing the most ineffective teachers. In short, evaluation and accountability may be perceived more positively by teachers and can have positive effects for teachers than have been recognized. We note this does not mean that there are not any negative consequences or warranted concerns about teacher evaluation and accountability, but rather as a policy tool, there may indeed be merit to evaluation and accountability.

Read the whole meta-analysis here.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman

“What Works” in Education Is Not Merely A Question of Effect Sizes

Here’s a pet peeve: A champion of some particular education intervention will point to some research study showing Intervention X led to positive outcomes for participating students. Ok, great. Assuming it’s a good study, we now have evidence that Intervention X “worked” in a given Situation Y.

That does not mean Intervention X will easily replicate to new Situation Z.

Anytime you hear someone attach the phrase “high-quality” in front of some intervention, they’re talking about this problem.  These caveats pop up frequently in debates over particular reforms:

  • The small school reform effort produced long-term gains for students, but their backers largely abandoned them.
  • School integration efforts produced large gains for black students (with no harm to white students), but formal integration programs were and remain relatively small.
  • “High-performing” charter schools produce large gains for students, but there is wide variation in those results.
  • Teacher evaluation reforms produced gains in some cities, but the effects were smaller or non-existent when similar reforms were spread more broadly.

Some of these reflect implementation challenges. Others are more about politics (which is itself a particular type of implementation challenge). I am by no means the first person to make this point, but we can’t just say something “works” or “doesn’t work” without giving some consideration to where the policy worked, for whom it worked, what outcomes changed, and by how much it changed the status quo.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman