Kim Gibbons
Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI)

Summertime is quickly approaching, and with it comes the end of the 2017-18 school calendar. This shift offers us an opportunity to reflect on the past year and think deeply about how we will improve upon our practice in the year to come. This contemplative work encompasses many parts, including examining the educational research base for new information and ideas based on rigorous research.

The Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI) publishes a short e-newsletter each month during the school year called the CAREI Research Watch. In it, we summarize current research in education that we believe can inform the practice of district, school, and teacher leaders. Fifty-four districts around the state are members of our District Assembly and receive these newsletters monthly. Recognizing that not all of you have access to this resource, I thought I would share the research most applicable to district leaders from the past year.   In the paragraphs below, you’ll find summaries of five articles that provide new insights, evidence, or ideas about how to better support students or teachers through your district roles.

Teacher Coaching Linked to Improvements in Instruction and Student Achievement

A recent meta-analysis of 60 studies found positive and significant effects of teacher coaching programs on both instruction and student achievement. The studies all employed teacher coaching methods, but the definition of those methods varied. For example, some studies looked at coaching as a way to ensure fidelity of instructional methods from previous trainings. Others, however, focused on encouraging teacher reflection through coaching or providing direct feedback from observations. Many of the studies focused on literacy coaches due to large federal investments in that area. The study found a significant positive effect of coaching on teachers’ instructional practices (e.g., the use of open-ended questions) when averaging across studies. The study also found significant positive effects on student achievement associated with coaching, but they were of a smaller magnitude than the effects on instructional practice. Interestingly, the study found that the effect size was smaller for general coaching programs when compared with content-specific programs (e.g., programs that target specific subjects, such as literacy, science, or math coaches). The effect of coaching on achievement was larger for programs that paired coaching with group trainings or with instructional resources or materials. The study concluded that having high dosage (more hours with coaches or in professional development) was not associated with better outcomes, supporting a hypothesis that the quality of the content and time with coaches is more important.

Kraft, M.A., Blazar, D., Hogan, D. (2018). The Effect of Teacher Coaching on Instruction and Achievement: A Meta-Analysis of the Causal Evidence. Review of Educational Research.

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Data-Based Decision Making Shown to Impact Student Achievement

Researchers at the University of Twente in the Netherlands developed and tested the effects of a data-based decision-making training program on primary school students. The intervention included a two-year training course for all teachers and school leaders in 53 primary schools across the Netherlands. The training focused on creating the knowledge and skills needed to work with data, working with actual student data to model the process, encouraging collaboration amongst teachers, classroom observations, and creating strategies based on data to improve student learning. This also included specific work with school leaders where trainers encouraged them to support their staff members and create additional time within the school year for them to work with student data effectively. The study found that this type of data-based decision-making training and support had an impact on student outcomes that differed by school. In fact, the results showed approximately an extra one month of learning for students involved. These effects were strongest among low socioeconomic status students. Due to the demonstrated effects, the researchers recommend that schools use coaching and classroom support to move data-based decision-making efforts forward.

Van Geel, M., Keuning, T., Visscher, A., & Fox, J. (2016). Assessing the Effects of a School-Wide Data-Based Decision-Making Intervention on Student Achievement Growth in Primary Schools. American Educational Research Journal, 53 (2), 360-394.

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Aspects of School Leadership Related to Student Performance

This study addresses four key research questions through the use of an extensive survey and student outcomes analysis:

  1. What are the levels of instructional leadership in schools?
  2. What is the relationship between instructional leadership and student achievement?
  3. What is the role of teachers in school leadership?
  4. What is the relationship between teacher leadership and student achievement?

The findings are somewhat unsurprising: higher levels of instructional leadership and teacher leadership in schools are related to improved school performance in both ELA and mathematics. However, some of the elements most strongly related to improve achievement are those least implemented in schools. For example, schools are less likely to have effective school improvement teams or a shared vision for the school than other elements of instructional leadership. Similarly, although involving teachers in establishing discipline procedures and school improvement planning are highly related to achievement, teachers are only involved in these efforts in a minority of schools. Overall, the authors conclude that a balanced approach to leadership is best. Schools should stress both teacher accountability and inclusion in decision-making so that they have the resources, support, and autonomy to do their jobs and then can be held accountable to standards they helped establish.

Ingersoll, R.M., Dougherty, P., & Sirinides, P. (2017). School Leadership Counts. Santa Cruz, CA: New Teacher Center.

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The Evidence Base for How We Learn

This report from the Aspen Institute details current research and knowledge about how students learn, examining skills that fit into three interconnected domains: cognitive skills, emotional competencies, and social and interpersonal skills. The findings advocate for educators and leaders to take a systems approach to developing students in these areas: focusing on adult skills and beliefs, organizational culture, and routines or norms guiding instruction. Included are a series of “consensus statements”, or statements that all members of the Council of Distinguished Scientists agreed were based on evidence. They cover how social emotional skills develop, how malleable skills are, the central role schools play in developing these skills, and evidence to suggest focusing on teaching social emotional skills is worth it. The authors highlight the interconnected nature of social, emotional, and academic skills and believe that integrating these skills with academic instruction is foundational to the success of students.

Jones, S.M., & Kahn, J. (2017). The Evidence Base for How We Learn: Supporting Students’ Social, Emotional, and Academic Development. The Aspen Institute. Retrieved from

 Tools for Considering Costs in Education Decisions

A new brief from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) provides guidance and tools for educators seeking to implement cost analyses in their decision-making. The authors argue that measuring program costs can help leaders optimize resources and improve implementation of existing programs, potentially leading to improved student outcomes. To use cost information to improve decisions, leaders need to have access to extensive cost data on programs, such as costs within spending categories, identification of fixed and variable costs, and site-level cost information. Once this information is compiled, there are resources to help leaders analyze and compare potential situations. One such resource is CostOut (, funded by IES and free for educators. This tool can help leaders estimate program costs overall and by participant, understand cost as participation changes, and tweak resources to lower costs. The brief also provides an overview of various types of cost analyses that district decision-makers can employ to use cost data effectively, such as a cost-benefit analysis or a cost-feasibility analysis.

Hollands, F.M., & Levin, H.M. (2017). The critical importance of costs for education decisions. (REL 2017-274). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Analytic Technical Assistance and Development.

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If you have any questions about these articles or wish for more information about how to obtain access to CAREI’s Research Watch and other resources, please reach out to me at Otherwise, enjoy the end of the school year and have a terrific summer!

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