blog posts and news stories

SREE 2020 Goes Virtual

We, like many of you, were excited to travel to Washington DC in March 2020 to present at the annual conference of the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE). This would have been our 15th year attending or presenting at the SREE conference! We had been looking forward to learning from a variety of sessions and to sharing our own work with the SREE community, so imagine our disappointment when the conference was cancelled (rightfully) in response to the pandemic. Thankfully, SREE offered presenters the option to share their work virtually, and we are excited to have taken part in this opportunity!

Among the several accepted conference proposals, we decided to host the symposium on Social and Emotional Learning in Educational Settings & Academic Learning because it incorporated several of our major projects—three evaluations funded by the Department of Education’s i3/EIR program—two of which focus on teacher professional development and one that focuses on content enhancement routines and student content knowledge. We were joined by Katie Lass who presented on another i3/EIR evaluation conducted by the Policy & Research Group and by Anne Wolf, from Abt Associates, who served as the discussant. The presentations focused on unpacking the logic model for each of the respective programs and collectively, we tried to uncover common threads and lessons learned across the four i3/EIR evaluations.

We were happy to have a turnout that was more than we had hoped for and a rich discussion about the topic. The recording of our virtual symposium is now available here. Below are materials from each presentation.

We look forward to next year!

9A. Unpacking the Logic Model: A Discussion of Mediators and Antecedents of Educational Outcomes from the Investing in Innovation (i3) Program

Symposium: September 9, 1:00-2:00 PM EDT

Section: Social and Emotional Learning in Educational Settings & Academic Learning in Education Settings



Organizer: Katie Lass, Policy & Research Group

Impact on Antecedents of Student Dropout in a Cross-Age Peer Mentoring Program


Katie Lass, Policy & Research Group*; Sarah Walsh, Policy & Research Group; Eric Jenner, Policy & Research Group; and Sherry Barr, Center for Supportive Schools

Supporting Content-Area Learning in Biology and U.S. History: A Randomized Control Trial of Enhanced Units in California and Virginia


Hannah D’Apice, Empirical Education*; Adam Schellinger, Empirical Education; Jenna Zacamy, Empirical Education; Xin Wei, SRI International; and Andrew P. Jaciw, Empirical Education

The Role of Socioemotional Learning in Teacher Induction: A Longitudinal Study of the CREATE Teacher Residency Program


Audra Wingard, Empirical Education*; Andrew P. Jaciw, Empirical Education; Jenna Zacamy, Empirical Education

Uncovering the Black Box: Exploratory Mediation Analysis for a Science Teacher Professional Development Program


Thanh Nguyen, Empirical Education*; Andrew P. Jaciw, Empirical Education; and Jenna Zacamy, Empirical Education

Discussant: Anne Wolf, Abt Associates


New Mexico Implementation

Empirical Education and the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) are entering into their fourth year of collaboration using Observation Engine to increase educator effectiveness by improving understanding of the NMTEACH observation protocol and inter-rater reliability amongst observers using it. During the implementation, Observation Engine has been used for calibration and professional development with over 2,000 educators across the state annually. In partnership with the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), who is providing training on best practices, the users in New Mexico have pushed the boundaries of what is possible with Observation Engine. Observation Engine was initially used solely for certifying observers prior to live classroom observations. Now, observers are relying on Observation Engine’s lesson functionality to provide professional development throughout the year. In addition, some administrators are now using videos and content from Observation Engine directly with teachers to provide them with models of what good instruction looks like.

The exciting news is that the collaborative efforts of NMPED, SREB, and Observation Engine are demonstrating impressive results across New Mexico that are noteworthy, especially when compared to the rest of the nation. In a compilation of teacher performance ratings from 19 states that have reformed their evaluation system since the seminal Widget Effect Report, Kraft and Gilmour (2016) found that in a majority of these states, fewer than 3 percent of teachers are rated below proficient. New Mexico stood out as an outlier among these states with 26.2% of teachers rated below proficient, a percentage comparable with more realistic pilots of educator effectiveness ratings. This is likely a sign of excellent professional development, as well as a willingness to realistically adjust the thresholds for proficiency based on the data that is being yielded and examined from actual practice, such as data captured within Observation Engine.

Kraft, M.A., & Gilmour, A.F. (2016). Revisiting the Widget Effect: Teacher Evaluation Reforms and the Distribution of Teacher Effectiveness. Brown University working paper. Retrieved July 21, 2016, from