A Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation initiative to improve teacher effectiveness and ensure that low-income minority students have access to highly effective teachers is beginning to show signs of progress, a midterm evaluation by the RAND Corporation and American Institutes for Research finds.
Launched in 2009 with the goal of significantly boosting student achievement, graduation rates, and the number of college-bound students, especially among low-income minority students, the Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching initiative worked with school districts in Pittsburgh, Memphis, and Hillsborough County, Florida, as well as four charter management organizations in California, to implement reforms in the areas of teacher evaluation, staffing, professional development, compensation, and career ladders. Commissioned by the Gates Foundation, three interim reports evaluated the project through the end of 2013-14 school year in terms of implementation, impact on student outcomes, and access to effective teaching, and found that the reforms had little impact during the initial years. In 2013-14, however, the impact on student outcomes began to trend upward, with improvements in reading in grades 3 to 8 in Hillsborough County Public Schools and in math in Pittsburgh Public Schools.
While the subsequent upward trajectory in all but one of the six achievement impact areas suggests that the reforms may be having a positive effect, the analysis found that the impact estimates for 2013–14 are smaller than normal yearly gains in achievement and compared to many other school-level interventions. The evaluation also found that while all sites were retaining their best-performing teachers at higher rates than their lowest-performing teachers, they were less successful in placing the most effective teachers in classrooms with a high percentage of low-income minority students. A final report on the initiative that will incorporate two more years of student test results and other data is expected to be released in 2017.
"A delay in positive effects is not completely surprising, given the time it took to implement many of the initiative's elements," said AIR vice president Michael S. Garet. "These sites completely overhauled their evaluation, staffing, professional development, compensation, and career policies, which does not happen overnight."