Research News

$5M study looks at TN teacher evaluation data and collaboration

Identifying teachers that can be matched up with peer mentors is one way Tennessee teachers and administrators are effectively using teacher evaluation data. (iStock)

Understanding how state school systems can best use teacher evaluation data to drive instructional improvement is the focus of a new study by education researchers at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development.

A $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences (IES) supports the study, which is being conducted as a partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE), Peabody College, Brown University and Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Serving as Peabody’s co-lead investigators are Ellen Goldring, Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Education Policy and Leadership; and Jason Grissom, associate professor of public policy and education.

“We are thrilled to develop this close research partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education to further explore the ways in which policies and initiatives can best be developed and rolled out to support teachers and students,” Goldring said. “This will provide the opportunity for us to learn how teacher evaluation data can be used for teacher collaboration and growth, and to study what principals can do to develop school cultures and structures to support this data use.”

Over the past several years, educational researchers at Brown, Harvard Graduate School of Education and the TDOE have been developing an approach that uses detailed Tennessee teacher evaluation data to improve instructional practice.

The resulting Instructional Partnership Initiative (IPI) uses data to recommend partnerships between teachers with strengths in particular areas of practice and teachers who have room to grow in those same areas. The two teachers are then encouraged to work together throughout the year to build instructional skills. Thus, the initiative relies on peers to implement tailored professional learning with no financial cost to districts or schools.

In the new study, researchers will implement a statewide randomized experiment in 1,453 schools in Tennessee to evaluate the initiative’s effectiveness. They will examine the effect of teacher collaboration on student achievement, and track whether and how the program was implemented, and the conditions that contributed to its adoption and success.

According to Nathaniel Schwartz, the chief research and strategy officer at the Tennessee Department of Education, “We are committed to the continuous improvement of our state programs. This grant allows us to undertake rigorous research to learn more about how teachers can best support their peers’ instructional improvement. We expect to use the results of this research to shape both the Instructional Partnership Initiative, which makes innovative use of feedback from our teacher evaluation system, as well as other state strategies for classroom improvement in years to come.”

Additional Vanderbilt researchers on the study include Marisa Cannata, research assistant professor and director of the National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools; Mollie Rubin, research associate in the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations; and colleagues at the Tennessee Consortium on Research, Education and Development at Peabody.