- A Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded initiative designed to improve student achievement by strengthening teaching did lead to using measures of effectiveness in personnel decisions, but did not improve student performance, particularly that of low-income minority students, according to a new report from the RAND Corporation.
- Running from 2009 to 2015, the Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching involved three school districts — Hillsborough County in Florida; Memphis (Tenn.) City Schools, which later merged with Shelby County Schools; and Pittsburgh Public Schools in Pennsylvania. Four charter management organizations were also involved, including Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, Aspire Public Schools, Green Dot Public Schools and Partnerships to Uplift Communities.
- The sites implemented a rubric for observing teachers, and they trained administrators and other staff members to conduct the observations, but outcomes for students, including graduation rates, did not improve overall.
The 1996 report from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, “What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future,” led to increased efforts to improve teacher quality, particularly for students more likely to struggle academically. But research has shown that teaching quality can vary significantly within the same school and students may not experience consecutive years of having effective teachers.
Studies also show that low-income, minority students tend to be assigned to less-experienced, lower-quality teachers. The RAND report on the Gates Foundation initiative, however, suggests that efforts to improve teacher quality may face obstacles such as changes in state policies, not allowing enough time to see the benefits, and major resistance to changes in how teachers are evaluated.
The authors also note that focusing heavily on teacher effectiveness may not be sufficient to improve student learning. They contended that addressing issues such as early-childhood education, social and emotional skills and the learning environment might also be necessary. “Dramatic improvement in outcomes, particularly for [low-income, minority] students, will likely require attention to many of these factors as well,” they wrote.