Professional Development/ Teacher Training

Are School Districts Ready to Meet New Federal Goals?

March, 2017

This brief, which draws on data from a large survey of secondary school teachers and principals, discusses how existing evaluation and support systems could be better used to realize the vision of teacher improvement now included in federal law under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Preliminary Kindergarten Impacts of the Making Pre-K Count and High 5s Programs

February, 2017

Can children’s math skills be strengthened in pre-K and kindergarten, and can such improvements have longer-term effects? This preliminary analysis examines the cumulative effects of two early math programs and demonstrates that this enhanced experience can have modest, positive impacts on children’s math and executive function skills in kindergarten.

Improving Math Instruction in New York City

October, 2016

An evidence-based preschool math curriculum called Building Blocks, combined with ongoing professional development, was compared with “business as usual” pre-K programs across 69 public schools and community-based organizations. This report contains interim findings on the implementation of the model, the amount and quality of its math instruction, and children’s learning outcomes.

Interim Impact Findings from the Investing in Innovation (i3) Evaluation of Diplomas Now

June, 2016

The Diplomas Now whole-school reform model, including targeted interventions for students at risk of dropping out, had an impact on the percentage of students with no early warning indicators related to attendance, behavior, or course performance, and had more encouraging results in middle schools than high schools.

April, 2016

The Every Student Succeeds Act gives states greater responsibility for choosing strategies to improve underperforming schools. For over a decade, MDRC has rigorously evaluated school improvement strategies, collecting evidence that can help states determine which strategies are likely to work. This Issue Focus describes four of MDRC’s most recent studies.

Lessons from Implementing a Rigorous Academic Program for At-Risk Young People

September, 2015

In Gateway to College, students who have dropped out of high school and who are at risk of dropping out simultaneously earn credits toward a high school diploma and a postsecondary degree. This report describes the program model and shares lessons learned from its implementation at three program sites.

Teachers’ Voices on Professional Development

June, 2015

Through the Innovative Professional Development (iPD) Challenge, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is helping school districts and networks redesign their professional development systems. This brief — the first in a series — introduces the case study component of MDRC’s evaluation and presents some early findings from interviews with teachers.

MDRC’s Projects in Math for Low-Income Students, from Preschool to College

June, 2015

In our increasingly technological world, developing basic math skills is crucial. What can be done to promote more effective math education? This two-page issue focus describes a number of MDRC projects — from preschool to postsecondary education — that seek to improve the performance of low-income students in math.

Changing School Practices During the Second Year of Diplomas Now

May, 2015

Diplomas Now, a partnership of three national organizations, aims to increase graduation rates in high-risk schools, targeting support to students who need it most. This second report finds that Diplomas Now schools are differentiating themselves from comparable schools in their implementation of structural and instructional reforms.

A Summary of Impact and Implementation Findings from Head Start CARES

April, 2015

This two-page issue focus summarizes the main findings from Head Start CARES, a test of three distinct classroom-based approaches to enhancing children’s social-emotional development: Incredible Years Teacher Training Program, Preschool PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies), and Tools of the Mind–Play.

March, 2015

Using data from the Head Start Impact Study, this paper examines variation in Head Start effects across individual children, policy-relevant subgroups of children, and Head Start centers. It finds that past estimates of the average effect of Head Start programs mask a wide range of relative program effectiveness.

An Evaluation of an Effort to Help Nonprofits Manage Their Finances

February, 2015

Nonprofit organizations, which deliver many of the social services Americans receive, often face financial management challenges that affect the quality of their services. This report examines how 25 Chicago-based organizations responded over a four-year period to an initiative designed to improve their ability to address those financial challenges.

Early Reflections from MDRC’s Evaluation of the Innovative Professional Development Challenge

January, 2015

In the Innovative Professional Development (iPD) Challenge, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is helping school districts redesign their teacher professional development systems to better support teachers in increasing student success. This Issue Focus, the second in a series, offers some early reflections from MDRC’s study of it.

Exploratory Findings from the Head Start CARES Demonstration

December, 2014

This report suggests that evidence-based approaches can improve 3-year-olds’ social-emotional competence in mixed-age preschool classrooms. While the findings are promising, further research is needed to confirm the results and to better understand how these benefits are generated.

December, 2014

In the Innovative Professional Development (iPD) Challenge, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is helping school districts redesign their teacher professional development systems to better support teachers in increasing student success. This Issue Focus introduces the iPD Challenge and presents some early findings from MDRC’s study of it.

The First Year of Implementing Diplomas Now

August, 2014

Three national organizations formed Diplomas Now in an effort to transform urban secondary schools so fewer students drop out. This report introduces Diplomas Now and the associated evaluation, shares first-year implementation fidelity findings, and discusses collaboration among the Diplomas Now partners and between those partners and schools.

Design Report

July, 2014

This report provides recommendations for an evaluation of coaching that may impact teacher and classroom practices in Head Start and other early childhood settings — including about the research questions; the design of the impact study, implementation research, and cost analysis; and logistical challenges for carrying out the design.

Design Options for an Evaluation of Head Start Coaching

July, 2014

Using a study of coaching in Head Start as an example, this report reviews potential experimental design options that get inside the “black box” of social interventions by estimating the effects of individual components. It concludes that factorial designs are usually most appropriate.

The Importance of Evidence

July, 2014

In this essay, adapted from remarks made to the Growth Philanthropy Network/Social Impact Exchange 2014 Conference on Scaling Impact, MDRC President Gordon Berlin explains why developing reliable evidence of effectiveness is critical when expanding programs to a large scale.

Adapting a Preschool Social-Emotional Curriculum

June, 2014

In this study, an existing evidence-based curriculum was adapted for use with a special population by focusing on structural, cultural, and language issues. The findings indicate that adaptations can account for a specific population’s needs while staying true to the core principles and components of the program.

National Evaluation of Three Approaches to Improving Preschoolers’ Social and Emotional Competence

June, 2014

This demonstration tested the effectiveness of three program enhancements implemented at scale that were designed to improve preschool children's social-emotional competence. All three had positive impacts on teacher practice and on children’s social-emotional outcomes during the preschool year, although to varying degrees and not necessarily in the expected ways.

Educational Challenges and MDRC’s Research

May, 2014

MDRC hosted a recent colloquium to celebrate our 40th anniversary and the contributions of former Board Chair Robert Solow. This issue focus summarizes a panel presentation, featuring Frank Levy, Richard J. Murnane, Cecilia E. Rouse, and Ronald F. Ferguson, about current challenges in education and how MDRC’s research can help address them.

MDRC’s Portfolio in Early Childhood Education

March, 2014

Today, leaders from across the political spectrum are calling for new investments in early childhood education. But many important questions remain about how to make the most of the promise of preschool and related interventions. MDRC’s portfolio of research and demonstration projects is tackling some of the biggest ones.

 

Large-Scale Implementation of Programs to Improve Children’s Social-Emotional Competence

December, 2013

This report describes the extent to which three different classroom-based social-emotional strategies and related professional development supports were implemented as intended in Head Start centers, as well as the degree to which teachers’ practices changed as a result.

March, 2013

Urban high schools are in trouble — high dropout rates, low student achievement, and graduates who are unprepared for the world of work are just some of the disappointing indicators. However, this policy memo, part of our “Looking Forward” series, explains how recent research has uncovered a number of approaches to improving student outcomes and reforming underperforming schools.

Final Impact and Implementation Findings from the Foundations of Learning Demonstration in Newark and Chicago

January, 2013

Intensive professional development and in-class support for preschool teachers produced more positive teacher-student interactions, more effective management of challenging behaviors, less problem behavior, higher engagement in learning, and more instruction time. However, there was no clear effect on short-term academic achievement, and the long-term effects on children remain uncertain.

Report on Program Impacts, Program Fidelity, and Contrast

December, 2012

The Content Literacy Continuum combines whole-school and targeted approaches to supporting student literacy and content learning, using instructional routines and learning strategies. This report describes implementation and impact findings from a random assignment study involving 33 high schools in nine school districts.

Improving Classroom Practices in Head Start Settings

February, 2012

This report offers lessons about using coaches to help teachers carry out a program for improving pre-kindergarteners’ social and emotional readiness for school. It addresses selection of the coaching model; coach hiring, training, support, and supervision; coaching processes; and program management, data, and quality assurance.

An Empirical Assessment Based on Four Recent Evaluations

October, 2011

This reference report, prepared for the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), uses data from four recent IES-funded experimental design studies that measured student achievement using both state tests and a study-administered test.

What Two Rigorous Studies Tell Us

July, 2011

This synthesis reviews findings from two rigorous, large-scale evaluations — the Professional Development in Reading Study and the Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study. Both interventions had only limited effects on teachers’ knowledge and instruction and no impacts on students’ test scores. The report ends with suggestions about how professional development might be improved to achieve better results.

May, 2011

In a study sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences, intensive professional development programs for seventh-grade math teachers were implemented as intended, but teacher turnover limited the average dosage received. The programs had no impact on teacher knowledge or student achievement.

How Classroom Management Training Can Help Teachers

November, 2010

Foundations of Learning provided training and in-class support to teachers to help guide children’s behavior and emotional development. In Newark, NJ, the program improved teachers’ classroom management and productivity, reduced children’s conflict with peers, and increased children’s engagement. A year later, few effects for children were sustained as they entered kindergarten, but teachers were still engaged in positive practices.

The Impact of Supplemental Literacy Courses for Struggling Ninth-Grade Readers

July, 2010

Over the course of ninth grade, two supplemental literacy courses modestly improved students’ reading comprehension skills and helped them perform better academically in their course work. However, these benefits did not persist in the following school year, when students were no longer receiving the supplemental support.

April, 2010

This report presents first-year results from the Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study, sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. The professional development programs for seventh-grade math teachers had an impact on one measure of teacher practice but no effects on teachers’ knowledge or student achievement.

Implementation Lessons from the Foundations of Learning Demonstration

December, 2009

Foundations of Learning provided in-class training and support to teachers, and one-on-one clinical services to children, to enhance preschool quality. This report offers lessons regarding program design, management, staffing, and professional development issues that arose during implementation in Newark, NJ.

A Preview of Findings from the Foundations of Learning Demonstration

September, 2009

Early evaluation results from Newark, NJ, show that Foundations of Learning improved teachers’ classroom management and productivity, reduced children’s conflict with peers, and engaged students in the learning tasks of preschool. The intervention was implemented in Head Start programs, community-based child care centers, and public schools.

November, 2008

This report presents findings from the second year of the Enhanced Reading Opportunities (ERO) study, a demonstration and random assignment evaluation of two supplemental literacy programs — Reading Apprenticeship Academic Literacy and Xtreme Reading — that aim to improve the reading comprehension skills and school performance of struggling ninth-grade readers.

September, 2008

This report presents findings on the effectiveness of two specific professional development strategies on improving the knowledge and practice of second-grade teachers in high-poverty schools and on the reading achievement of their students.

January, 2008

This report presents early findings from a demonstration and random assignment evaluation of two supplemental literacy programs that aim to improve the reading comprehension skills and school performance of struggling ninth-grade readers. On average, the programs produced a positive, statistically significant impact on reading comprehension among students.

Suggestive Evidence from Three Urban School Districts

December, 2007

Does providing instruction-related professional development to school principals set in motion a chain of events that can improve teaching and learning in their schools? This report examines professional development efforts by the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Learning in elementary schools in Austin, St. Paul, and New York City.

May, 2007

This policy brief, published by the National High School Center, focuses on five key challenges that states, districts, and schools should address to support a successful transition into high school.

Elementary Student Achievement and the Bay Area School Reform Collaborative’s Focal Strategy

December, 2006

The Bay Area School Reform Collaborative’s focal strategy, a system-wide reform that coaches district and school leaders, supports evidence-based decision-making, and promotes networking within and among schools, has no strong association with changes in elementary student achievement.

The Effects of Four Popular Improvement Programs

November, 2006

This research brief, published by the National High School Center, draws on findings from four studies by MDRC that shed light on both the nature of the problems found in low-performing high schools and on the effectiveness of promising interventions that attempt to address those problems.

The Effect of Project GRAD on High School Student Outcomes in Three Urban School Districts

July, 2006

This report describes the effects of Project GRAD, an ambitious education reform that targets high schools and the elementary and middle schools that feed into them, on a variety of student outcomes in high schools in Houston, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; and Columbus, Ohio.

The Effect of Project GRAD on Elementary School
Student Outcomes in Four Urban Districts

July, 2006

This report describes the effects of Project GRAD, an ambitious education reform that targets high schools and the elementary and middle schools that feed into them, on student test scores in elementary schools in Houston, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; Columbus, Ohio; and Newark, New Jersey.

Elementary Student Achievement and the Bay Area School Reform Collaborative's Focal Strategy

February, 2006

The Bay Area School Reform Collaborative’s strategy seeks to raise student achievement in six elementary school districts in the San Francisco Bay Area by coaching supervisors, principals, and teachers, instituting evidence-based decision making, and promoting sharing of experiences among schools. During the first two years of implementation, MDRC found no strong, pervasive association with student achievement.

Evidence from the Talent Development High School Model

May, 2005

Talent Development, a high school reform initiative, produced substantial positive effects on attendance, academic course credits earned, tenth-grade promotion, and algebra pass rates for students in very low-performing schools in Philadelphia.

Context, Components, and Initial Impacts on Students’ Performance and Attendance

December, 2004

During the first three years of implementation in six urban schools, The Talent Development Middle School model—an ongoing, whole-school reform initiative—had a positive impact on math achievement for eighth-graders but appeared to produce no systematic improvement in outcomes for seventh-graders.

Context, Components, and Initial Impacts on Ninth-Grade Students’ Engagement and Performance

June, 2004

An examination of the implementation and early impacts of Talent Development, a whole-school reform initiative, found that the model produced substantial gains in ninth-grade students’ course completion and promotion rates.

March, 2003

This paper illustrates how to design an experimental sample for measuring the effects of educational programs when whole schools are randomized to a program and control group. It addresses such issues as what number of schools should be randomized, how many students per school are needed, and what is the best mix of program and control schools.

Testing an Intervention to Help High School Freshmen Succeed

April, 1999
Project Overview

This study evaluates a new two-year intervention focused on student writing called Drive to Write. The intervention integrates technology coaching into a global history curriculum to create opportunities for focused student writing and revision and increased teacher feedback on writing.

Project Overview

Teach for America (TFA) is a national, externally validated program that recruits, selects, and trains new teachers, referred to as corps members, for placement in high-need urban and rural communities across the country, with the expectation that they put their students on the path to college and life success.

Project Overview

With broad support across the political spectrum, states and localities throughout the country are expanding preschool programs for low-income children.

Project Overview

While English language learners and disadvantaged native English speakers may have sufficient skills to engage in everyday conversation, many struggle with academic language, the more formal language typically used in school.

Project Overview

The High 5s project is part of the Robin Hood Early Childhood Research Initiative, a partnership between MDRC and the Robin Hood Foundation focused on improving the life trajectories of low-income children in New York City.

Project Overview

Nonprofit organizations, which deliver many of the social services Americans receive, often suffer from weak financial management capacity that affects the quality of their services.

Project Overview

Too often, elementary school students lack the behavioral and social skills necessary to focus on academics and achieve in school. Without proper support, teachers inevitably spend far too much time managing their students’ behavior and too little time actually teaching.

Project Overview

Middle school is a crucial stage for math instruction because students must master the context needed for more advanced high school math. But middle school math achievement has been difficult to improve.

Project Overview

This project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, provides research and evaluation support for the Innovative Professional Development (iPD) Challenge, which seeks to clarify the extent to which changes in school district professional development systems lead to different teacher experiences and measu

Project Overview

Making Pre-K Count is the result of a partnership between MDRC and the Robin Hood Foundation whose goal is to build evidence about ways to improve the life trajectories of children living in poverty in New York City. The partnership’s first project focuses on improving preschool children’s math skills.

Project Overview

MDRC is evaluating the AVID College Readiness System along with the establishment of a “vertical alignment collaborative” across several middle and high schools and a local community college, all located in rural Central Florida.

Project Overview

Low-performing high schools, particularly those serving low-income communities and students of color, are often characterized by high absentee and course failure rates, substantial dropout rates, and — even for graduates — inadequate preparation for postsecondary education and the labor market.

Project Overview

While educators and officials across the United States are struggling with how to raise student achievement and improve graduation rates, very few programs have been shown to work at scale in achieving either goal.

Project Overview

A solid understanding of rational numbers — fractions, decimals, ratios, and proportions and percents — is necessary for student success in algebra and beyond. Yet, decades of research on student achievement show that students struggle with these concepts.

Project Overview

Head Start, which serves nearly 1 million low-income children, is the nation’s largest federally sponsored early childhood education program.

Project Overview

An approach to educational reform that is gaining increasing currency is the one taken by the Bay Area School Reform Collaborative (BASRC), a not-for-profit grantmaking and support organization that aims to increase educational equity among students in six San Francisco Bay Area counties.

Project Overview

It is important that children who are learning to read be exposed to high-quality, research-based curricula, but it is also essential that teachers be well versed in the instructional practices that promote early literacy (see the description of Reading First for more on this topic)

Project Overview

Large, comprehensive high schools in urban areas are often troubled environments for teaching and learning. Research strongly indicates that, in such schools, ninth grade is a year in which many students start on the path to low achievement and dropping out.

Project Overview

Low-performing high schools, particularly those serving low-income communities and students of color, are often characterized by high absentee and course failure rates, substantial dropout rates, and — even for graduates — inadequate preparation for postsecondary education and the labor market.

Project Overview

In increasingly common currency is the idea that effective school principals, in addition to being managers and disciplinarians, must be instructional leaders of their schools — that is, they should convey to their staff members a common vision of what good instruction looks like, provide teachers with the resources and supports th

Project Overview

Low-income children too often begin school without the basic behavioral, emotional, and cognitive skills that they need to thrive academically — putting them at an immediate disadvantage and contributing to the large gap that develops in school achievement between low-income children and their more affluent peers.

Project Overview

Launched in Houston in 1993 by James Ketelsen, retired CEO of Tenneco, and since expanded to 12 additional school districts, Project Graduation Really Achieves Dreams (GRAD) combines a variety of promising reforms to improve instruction and raise student achievement in schools that serve p

Project Overview

The problems of urban middle and high schools are rooted in the inadequate preparation that too many students receive in elementary schools, and these problems become most visible in the ninth grade, when students encounter more demanding coursework and tougher requirements for grade-level promotion.