Publications and Reports

CTAC’s reports focus on cutting edge issues in education and community development. Our research and evaluation studies inform practice and guide policy decision-making at local, state and national levels.

Improving Teacher Practice: Debunking the Myth of the Performance Plateau

The CEOs of two of America’s leading education consultancies join forces to argue for school districts to play a more active role in teacher development. The “disheartening” but tenacious myth that new teachers improve for a few years and then coast is dangerous because it causes HR departments to focus on the wrong things, write Bryan Goodwin and William Slotnik. Newer studies have debunked the “performance plateau” and should lead districts in the direction of career-long development for career-long improvement. They propose a four-part plan for making it happen, and point out that a handful of districts have already started.

Getting the Pieces Right: Professional Development, Compensation, and School-Wide Performance

Getting the Pieces Right is the study of the Teacher Incentive Performance Award (TIPA) initiative in Virginia’s Prince William County Public Schools. A $10.9 million, five-year program supported by the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund, TIPA sought to increase student achievement in PWCS’s 30 lowest performing schools by focusing intensively on instructional improvement.

Findings show that TIPA led to statistically significant increases in student achievement in all four core subjects analyzed as measured by Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) test results. TIPA’s processes greatly increased collaboration and instructional dialogue among principals and teachers and strengthened the use of data to inform instruction.

This five-year study describes how TIPA provided incentives that fostered collaborative school-wide improvement efforts. The initiative provided “real time,” tailored professional development to teachers and customized leadership development to the 30 TIPA principals. It implemented a performance-based compensation system combining student growth and achievement measures with 23 measures of school effectiveness, such as positive school culture, effective parent engagement, and teacher leadership. And it awarded school-based compensation bonuses, with administrators/teachers in core subjects eligible for the largest awards.

When Educators Learn, Students Learn

When Educators Learn, Students Learn is the final evaluation of the Learning Leaders initiative in Virginia’s Henrico County Public Schools. A $16.5 million, five-year program supported by the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund, Learning Leaders sought to increase student achievement in eight of Henrico’s lowest performing schools by focusing intensively on instructional improvement.

Findings show that average scores on the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) state tests increased in Learning Leaders schools in all four core subjects analyzed. The gains were statistically significant in science and history. The opposite occurred in comparison schools where scores in all four subjects declined. The initiative’s processes greatly increased instructional feedback and reflection, collaborative dialogue among principals and teachers, and the use of data to inform instruction. Both individual educators and entire schools became more effective.

The five-year study describes how Learning Leaders implemented explicit student growth target setting as well as teacher observations that focused on areas of classroom practice with highest payoff for student learning; provided tailored professional development for teachers and administrators—trainings and workshops as well as one-to-one coaching—based on needs revealed by analysis of student data and teacher observations; and implemented a performance-based compensation system that rewarded individual educators.

Professional Development Review: Learning Leaders

This review examines the professional development (PD) approach designed specifically for the eight Henrico County schools participating in the Learning Leaders initiative. Its two components were: the PD Academy—the vehicle for providing formal trainings and professional development workshops for all Learning Leaders educators; and on-the-job coaching, which provided teachers and administrators with informal professional development. Findings show that the Learning Leaders PD approach in general, and its school-based instructional coaching model in particular, were successful in meeting the district’s instructional improvement objectives for Learning Leaders. The data suggest that the PD approach effectively built teachers’ capacity to set, analyze, and interpret ambitious individual student learning targets that contributed to enhanced achievement. It also promoted a collaborative and “safe” school culture where teachers readily shared their instructional approaches and challenges with their colleagues in the interest of enhancing overall student learning gains.

Focus on Literacy: Professional Development Audit

This report presents the findings from CTAC’s groundbreaking audit of the effectiveness of literacy professional development provided in Duval County Public Schools (Florida). The audit examines the relationship of professional development to student achievement, teachers’ instructional practices, teachers’ perceptions of their craft and of professional development, and financial expenditures. CTAC’s evaluation shows a markedly positive relationship between teacher professional development in literacy and student growth in reading—with student test scores increasing significantly for each six hours of literacy professional development for teachers.