blog posts and news stories

IES Published Our REL Southwest Study on Trends in Teacher Mobility

The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences published a report of a study we conducted for REL Southwest! We are thankful for the support and engagement we received from the Educator Effectiveness Research Alliance throughout the study.

The study was published in December 2017 and provides updated information regarding teacher mobility for Texas public schools during the 201112 through 201516 school years. Teacher mobility is defined as teachers changing schools or leaving the public school system.

In the report, descriptive information on mobility rates is presented at the regional and state levels for each school year. Mobility rates are disaggregated further into destination proportions to describe the proportion of teacher mobility due to within-district movement, between-district movement, and leaving Texas public schools. This study leverages data collected by the Texas Education Agency during the pilot of the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) in 57 school districts in 201415. Analyses examine how components of the T-TESS observation rubric are related to school-level teacher mobility rates.

During the 2011-12 school year, 18.7% of Texas teachers moved schools within a district, moved between districts, or left the Texas Public School system. By 2015-16, this mobility rate had increased to 22%. Moving between districts was the primary driver of the increase in mobility rates. Results indicate significant links between mobility and teacher, student, and school demographic characteristics. Teachers with special education certifications left Texas public schools at nearly twice the rate of teachers with other teaching certifications. School-level mobility rates showed significant positive correlations with the proportion of special education, economically disadvantaged, low-performing, and minority students. School-level mobility rates were negatively correlated with the proportion of English learner students. Schools with higher overall observation ratings on the T-TESS rubric tended to have lower mobility rates.

Findings from this study will provide state and district policymakers in Texas with updated information about trends and correlates of mobility in the teaching workforce, and offer a systematic baseline for monitoring and planning for future changes. Informed by these findings, policymakers can formulate a more strategic and targeted approach for recruiting and retaining teachers. For instance, instead of using generic approaches to enhance the overall supply of teachers or improve recruitment, more targeted efforts to attract and retain teachers in specific subject areas (for example, special education), in certain stages of their career (for example, novice teachers), and in certain geographic areas are likely to be more productive. Moreover, this analysis may enrich the existing knowledge base about schools’ teacher retention and mobility in relation to the quality of their teaching force, or may inform policy discussions about the importance of a stable teaching force for teaching effectiveness.

2018-02-01

IES Publishes our Recent REL Southwest Teacher Studies

The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences published two reports of studies we conducted for REL Southwest! We are thankful for the support and engagement we received from the Educator Effectiveness Research Alliance and the Oklahoma Rural Schools Research Alliance throughout the studies. The collaboration with the research alliances and educators aligns well with what we set out to do in our core mission: to support K-12 systems and empower educators in making evidence-based decisions.

The first study was published earlier this month and identified factors associated with successful recruitment and retention of teachers in Oklahoma rural school districts, in order to highlight potential strategies to address Oklahoma’s teaching shortage. This correlational study covered a 10-year period (the 2005-06 to 2014-15 school years) and used data from the Oklahoma State Department of Education, the Oklahoma Office of Educational Quality and Accountability, federal non-education sources, and publicly available geographic information systems from Google Maps. The study found that teachers who are male, those who have higher postsecondary degrees, and those who have more teaching experience are harder than others to recruit and retain in Oklahoma schools. In addition, for teachers in rural districts, higher total compensation and increased responsibilities in job assignment are positively associated with successful recruitment and retention. In order to provide context, the study also examined patterns of teacher job mobility between rural and non-rural school districts. The rate of teachers in Oklahoma rural schools reaching tenure is slightly lower than the rates for teachers in non-rural areas. Also, rural school districts in Oklahoma had consistently lower rates of success in recruiting teachers than non-rural school districts from 2006-07 to 2011-12.

This most recent study, published last week, examined data from the 2014-15 pilot implementation of the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS). In 2014-15 the Texas Education Agency piloted the T-TESS in 57 school districts. During the pilot year teacher overall ratings were based solely on rubric ratings on 16 dimensions across four domains.

The study examined the statistical properties of the T-TESS rubric to explore the extent to which it differentiates teachers on teaching quality and to investigate its internal consistency and efficiency. It also explored whether certain types of schools have teachers with higher or lower ratings. Using data from the pilot for more than 8,000 teachers, the study found that the rubric differentiates teacher effectiveness at the overall, domain, and dimension levels; domain and dimension ratings on the observation rubric are internally consistent; and the observation rubric is efficient, with each dimension making a unique contribution to a teacher’s overall rating. In addition, findings indicated that T-TESS rubric ratings varied slightly in relation to some school characteristics that were examined, such as socioeconomic status and percentage of English Language Learners. However, there is little indication that these characteristics introduced bias in the evaluators’ ratings.

2017-10-30

We Are Participating in the Upcoming REL Webinar on Teacher Mobility

Join Regional Educational Laboratories Midwest and Southwest for a free webinar on October 4 to learn how states can address teacher demand and mobility trends. As a partner in REL Southwest, we will be reporting on our work on teacher recruitment and retention in rural Oklahoma.

Teachers and administrators change schools for a variety of reasons. Mobility can be a positive if an educator moves to a position that is a better fit, but it can also have serious implications for states. Mobility may harm schools that serve high-need populations, and mobility can also create additional recruitment and hiring costs for districts.

This webinar focuses on research addressing the teacher pipeline and the mobility of teachers between schools and districts. Presenters will discuss two published REL Midwest research studies on teacher mobility trends and strategies for estimating teacher supply and demand. Following each presentation, leaders from the Oklahoma State Department of Education and the Minnesota Department of Education will respond to the presentations and share state initiatives to meet teacher staffing needs. Presenters also will briefly highlight two upcoming REL Southwest studies related to teacher supply and demand that are expected to be released later this year.

The studies that will be discussed are:
- An examination of the movement of educators within and across three Midwest Region states (REL Midwest, AIR)
- Strategies for estimating teacher supply and demand using student and teacher data (REL Midwest, AIR)
- Indicators of successful teacher recruitment and retention in Oklahoma rural schools (REL Southwest, Empirical Education)
- Teacher mobility in Texas: Trends and associations with student, teacher, and school characteristics (REL Southwest, AIR, Empirical Education)

This webinar is designed for state education staff, administrators in schools and districts with significant American Indian populations, American Indian community leaders, research alliance and community of practice members, and education researchers. If you cannot attend the live event, register at the link below to be notified when a recording of the webinar is available online.

Exploring Educator Movement Between Districts
October 4, 2017
10:00–11:30 a.m. PT

The Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) build the capacity of educators to use data and research to improve student outcomes. Each REL responds to needs identified in its region and makes learning opportunities and other resources available to educators throughout the United States. The REL program is a part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the U.S. Department of Education. To receive regular updates on REL work, including events and reports, follow IES on Facebook and Twitter.

You can register for this event on the REL website.

2017-09-21

IES Releases New Empirical Education Report on Educator Effectiveness

Our report just released by IES examines the statistical properties of Arizona’s new multiple-measure teacher evaluation model. The study used data from the pilot in 2012-13 to explore the relationships among the system’s component measures (teacher observations, student academic progress, and stakeholder surveys). It also investigated how well the model differentiated between higher and lower performing teachers. Findings suggest that the model’s observation measure may be improved through further evaluator training and calibration, and that a single aggregated composite score may not adequately represent independent aspects of teacher performance.

The study was carried out in partnership with the Arizona Department of Education as part of our work with the Regional Education Laboratory (REL) West’s Educator Effectiveness Alliance, which includes Arizona, Utah, and Nevada Department of Education officials, as well as teacher union representatives, district administrators, and policymakers. While the analysis is specific to Arizona’s model, the study findings and methodology may be of interest to other state education agencies that are developing of implementing new multiple-measure evaluation systems. We have continued this work with additional analyses for alliance members and plan to provide additional capacity building during 2015.

2014-12-16

Understanding Logic Models Workshop Series

On July 17, Empirical Education facilitated the first of two workshops for practitioners in New Mexico on the development of program logic models, one of the first steps in developing a research agenda. The workshop, entitled “Identifying Essential Logic Model Components, Definitions, and Formats”, introduced the general concepts, purposes, and uses of program logic models to members of the Regional Education Lab (REL) Southwest’s New Mexico Achievement Gap Research Alliance. Throughout the workshop, participants collaborated with facilitators to build a logic model for a program or policy that participants are working on or that is of interest.

Empirical Education is part of the REL Southwest team, which assists Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas in using data and research evidence to address high-priority regional needs, including charter school effectiveness, early childhood education, Hispanic achievement in STEM, rural school performance, and closing the achievement gap, through six research alliances. The logic model workshops aim to strengthen the technical capacity of New Mexico Achievement Gap Research Alliance members to understand and visually represent their programs’ theories of change, identify key program components and outcomes, and use logic models to develop research questions. Both workshops are being held in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

2014-06-17

Study of Alabama STEM Initiative Finds Positive Impacts

On February 21, 2012 the U.S. Department of Education released the final report of an experiment that Empirical Education has been working on for the last six years. The report, titled Evaluation of the Effectiveness of the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) is now available on the Institute of Education Sciences website. The Alabama State Department of Education held a press conference to announce the findings, attended by Superintendent of Education Bice, staff of AMSTI, along with educators, students, and co-principal investigator of the study, Denis Newman, CEO of Empirical Education. The press release issued by the Alabama State Department of Education and a WebEx presentation provide more detail on the study’s findings.

AMSTI was developed by the state of Alabama and introduced in 2002 with the goal of improving mathematics and science achievement in the state’s K-12 schools. Empirical Education was primarily responsible for conducting the study—including the design, data collection, analysis, and reporting—under its subcontract with the Regional Education Lab, Southeast (the study was initiated through a research grant to Empirical). Researchers from Academy of Education Development, Abt Associates, and ANALYTICA made important contributions to design, analysis and data collection.

The findings show that after one year, students in the 41 AMSTI schools experienced an impact on mathematics achievement equivalent to 28 days of additional student progress over students receiving conventional mathematics instruction. The study found, after one year, no difference for science achievement. It also found that AMSTI had an impact on teachers’ active learning classroom practices in math and science that, according to the theory of action posited by AMSTI, should have an impact on achievement. Further exploratory analysis found effects for student achievement in both mathematics and science after two years. The study also explored reading achievement, where it found significant differences between the AMSTI and control groups after one year. Exploration of differential effect for student demographic categories found consistent results for gender, socio-economic status, and pretest achievement level for math and science. For reading, however, the breakdown by student ethnicity suggests a differential benefit.

Just about everybody at Empirical worked on this project at one point or another. Besides the three of us (Newman, Jaciw and Zacamy) who are listed among the authors, we want to acknowledge past and current employees whose efforts made the project possible: Jessica Cabalo, Ruthie Chang, Zach Chin, Huan Cung, Dan Ho, Akiko Lipton, Boya Ma, Robin Means, Gloria Miller, Bob Smith, Laurel Sterling, Qingfeng Zhao, Xiaohui Zheng, and Margit Zsolnay.

With solid cooperation of the state’s Department of Education and the AMSTI team, approximately 780 teachers and 30,000 upper-elementary and middle school students in 82 schools from five regions in Alabama participated in the study. The schools were randomized into one of two categories: 1) Those who received AMSTI starting the first year, or 2) Those who received “business as usual” the first year and began participation in AMSTI the second year. With only a one-year delay before the control group entered treatment, the two-year impact was estimated using statistical techniques developed by, and with the assistance of our colleagues at Abt Associates. Academy for Education Development assisted with data collection and analysis of training and program implementation.

Findings of the AMSTI study will also be presented at the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE) Spring Conference taking place in Washington D.C. from March 8-10, 2012. Join Denis Newman, Andrew Jaciw, and Boya Ma on Friday March 9, 2012 from 3:00pm-4:30pm, when they will present findings of their study titled, “Locating Differential Effectiveness of a STEM Initiative through Exploration of Moderators.” A symposium on the study, including the major study collaborators, will be presented at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) on April 15, 2012 from 2:15pm-3:45pm at the Marriott Pinnacle ⁄ Pinnacle III in Vancouver, Canada. This session will be chaired by Ludy van Broekhuizen (director of REL-SE) and will include presentations by Steve Ricks (director of AMSTI); Jean Scott (SERVE Center at UNCG); Denis Newman, Andrew Jaciw, Boya Ma, and Jenna Zacamy (Empirical Education); Steve Bell (Abt Associates); and Laura Gould (formerly of AED). Sean Reardon (Stanford) will serve as the discussant. A synopsis of the study will also be included in the Common Guidelines for Education Research and Development.

2012-02-21

Empirical is participating in recently awarded five-year REL contracts

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) at the U.S. Department of Education recently announced the recipients of five-year contracts for each of the 10 Regional Education Laboratories (RELs). We are excited to be part of four strong teams of practitioners and researchers that received the awards.

The original request for proposals in May 2011 called for the new RELs to work closely with alliances of state and local education agencies and other practitioner organizations to build local capacity for research. Considering the close ties between this agenda and Empirical’s core mission we joined the proposal efforts and are now part of winning teams in the West (led by WestEd), Northwest (led by Education Northwest), Midwest (led by the American Institutes for Research (AIR)), and Southwest (led by SEDL) The REL Southwest is currently under a stop work order while ED addresses a dispute concerning its review process. Empirical Education’s history in conducting Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) and in providing technical assistance to education agencies provides a strong foundation for the next five years.

2012-02-16

New RFP calls for Building Regional Research Capacity

The US Department of Education (ED) has just released the eagerly anticipated RFP for the next round of the Regional Education Laboratories (RELs). This RFP contains some very interesting departures from how the RELs have been working, which may be of interest especially to state and local educators.

For those unfamiliar with federal government organizations, the RELs are part of the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (abbreviated NCEE), which is within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), part of ED. The country is divided up into ten regions, each one served by a REL—so the RFP announced today is really a call for proposals in ten different competitions. The RELs have been in existence for decades but their mission has evolved over time. For example, the previous RFP (about 6 years ago) put a strong emphasis on rigorous research, particularly randomized control trials (RCTs) leading the contractors in each of the 10 regions to greatly expand their capacity, in part by bringing in subcontractors with the requisite technical skills. (Empirical conducted or assisted with RCTs in four of the 10 regions.) The new RFP changes the focus in two essential ways.

First, one of the major tasks is building capacity for research among practitioners. Educators at the state and local levels told ED that they needed more capacity to make use of the longitudinal data systems that the ED has invested in through grants to the states. It is one thing to build the data systems. It is another thing to use the data to generate evidence that can inform decisions about policies and programs. Last month at the conference of the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness, Rebecca Maynard, Commissioner of NCEE talked about building a “culture of experimentation” among practitioners and building their capacity for simpler experiments that don’t take so long and are not as expensive as those NCEE has typically contracted for. Her point was that the resulting evidence is more likely to be used if the practitioners are “up close and immediate.”

The second idea found in the RFP for the RELs is that each regional lab should work through “alliances” of state and local agencies. These alliances would cross state boundaries (at least within the region) and would provide an important part of the REL’s research agenda. The idea goes beyond having an advisory panel for the REL that requests answers to questions. The alliances are also expected to build their own capacity to answer these questions using rigorous research methods but applying them cost-effectively and opportunistically. The capacity of the alliances should outlive the support provided by the RELs. If your organization is part of an existing alliance and would like to get better at using and conducting research, there are teams being formed to go after the REL contracts that would be happy to hear from you. (If you’re not sure who to call, let us know and we’ll put you in touch with an appropriate team.)

2011-05-11

A Conversation About Building State and Local Research Capacity

John Q Easton, director of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), came to New Orleans recently to participate in the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. At one of his stops, he was the featured speaker at a meeting of the Directors of Research and Evaluation (DRE), an organization composed of school district research directors. (DRE is affiliated with AERA and was recently incorporated as a 501©(3)). John started his remarks by pointing out that for much of his career he was a school district research director and felt great affinity to the group. He introduced the directions that IES was taking, especially how it was approaching working with school systems. He spent most of the hour fielding questions and engaging in discussion with the participants. Several interesting points came out of the conversation about roles for the researchers who work for education agencies.

Historically, most IES research grant programs have been aimed at university or other academic researchers. It is noteworthy that even in a program for “Evaluation of State and Local Education Programs and Policies,” grants have been awarded only to universities and large research firms. There is no expectation that researchers working for the state or local agency would be involved in the research beyond the implementation of the program. The RFP for the next generation of Regional Education Labs (REL) contracts may help to change that. The new RFP expects the RELs to work closely with education agencies to define their research questions and to assist alliances of state and local agencies in developing their own research capacity.

Members of the audience noted that, as district directors of research, they often spend more time reviewing research proposals from students and professors at local colleges who want to conduct research in their schools, rather than actually answering questions initiated by the district. Funded researchers treat the districts as the “human subjects,” paying incentives to participants and sometimes paying for data services. But the districts seldom participate in defining the research topic, conducting the studies, or benefiting directly from the reported findings. The new mission of the RELs to build local capacity will be a major shift.

Some in the audience pointed out reasons to be skeptical that this REL agenda would be possible. How can we build capacity if research and evaluation departments across the country are being cut? In fact, very little is known about the number of state or district practitioners whose capacity for research and evaluation could be built by applying the REL resources. (Perhaps, a good first research task for the RELs would be to conduct a national survey to measure the existing capacity.)

John made a good point in reply: IES and the RELs have to work with the district leadership—not just the R&E departments—to make this work. The leadership has to have a more analytic view. They need to see the value of having an R&E department that goes beyond test administration, and is able to obtain evidence to support local decisions. By cultivating a research culture in the district, evaluation could be routinely built in to new program implementations from the beginning. The value of the research would be demonstrated in the improvements resulting from informed decisions. Without a district leadership team that values research to find out what works for the district, internal R&E departments will not be seen as an important capacity.

Some in the audience pointed out that in parallel to building a research culture in districts, it will be necessary to build a practitioner culture among researchers. It would be straightforward for IES to require that research grantees and contractors engage the district R&E staff in the actual work, not just review the research plan and sign the FERPA agreement. Practitioners ultimately hold the expertise in how the programs and research can be implemented successfully in the district, thus improving the overall quality and relevance of the research.

2011-04-20

REL West Releases Report of RCT on Problem-Based Economics Conducted with Empirical Ed Help

Three years ago, Empirical Education began assisting the Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West) housed at WestEd in conducting a large-scale randomized experiment on the effectiveness of the Problem-Based Economics (PBE) curriculum.

Today, the Institute of Education Sciences released the final report indicating a significant impact of the program for students in 12th grade as measured by the Test of Economic Literacy. In addition to the primary focus on student achievement outcomes, the study examined changes in teachers’ content knowledge in economics, their pedagogical practices, and satisfaction with the curriculum. The report, Effects of Problem Based Economics on High School Economics Instruction is found on the IES website.

Eighty Arizona and California school districts participated in the study, which encompassed 84 teachers and over 8,000 students. Empirical Education was responsible for major aspects of research operations, which involved collecting, tracking, scoring, and warehousing all data including rosters and student records from the districts, as well as the distribution of the PBE curricular materials, assessments, and student and teacher surveys. To handle the high volume and multiple administrations of surveys and assessments, we created a detail-oriented operation including schedules for following up with survey responses where we achieved response rates of over 95% for both teacher and student surveys. The experienced team of research managers, RAs and data warehouse engineers maintained a rigorous 3-day turnaround for gathering end-of-unit exams and sending score reports to each teacher. The complete, documented dataset was delivered to the researchers at WestEd as our contribution to this REL West achievement.

2010-07-30
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