Research News

New research to help principals use teacher effectiveness for hiring, retention decisions

Wyatt Center at Vanderbilt's Peabody College (Vanderbilt/Daniel Dubois)

Helping school administrators navigate an ever-growing stream of teacher effectiveness data and apply it to their human capital decision-making is the focus of a Vanderbilt University study, which was awarded a $590,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Ellen Goldring
Ellen Goldring (Wolf Hoffmann)

“The use of varied types of teacher effectiveness data can help principals move toward the goal of having all children taught by highly effective teachers,” said principal investigator Ellen Goldring, the Patricia and Rodes Hart Chair and Professor of Education Policy and Leadership at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College for education and human development. “But even as the amount of data available to school systems and principals continues to expand, it’s not at all clear that these data are being leveraged for school improvement.”

Federal legislation and grant programs like Race to the Top are behind an unprecedented push for schools to collect data on teacher and student outcomes.

But even in school systems rich with data, too often principals don’t have access to the data when they need it most—when key decisions about hiring, retention and professional development, are being made, she said.

Her study, which will be conducted in eight school districts across six states starting now through February of 2014, will include observations, in-person interviews and focus groups with administrators, front office staff and teachers.

Goldring and her team will use what they learn to create a landscape analysis and needs assessment; compile case studies of principals who are exceptionally effective users of data; create a detailed map of the data use and decision-making cycles across the districts and charter networks; and make specific recommendations for support, resources and tools going forward.

“[rquote]Our project is geared toward reaching much better alignment between data collection and data use,” Goldring said.[/rquote]

The research team includes Assistant Professor of Leadership, Policy and Organizations Jason Grissom, Senior Research Associate Marisa Cannata, Research Assistant Professor Patrick Schuermann and doctoral student Timothy Drake.