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What do we know about Principal Evaluation?

August 31, 2021

Principal Evaluation. The field of principal evaluation, while gaining increased research interest in recent years, lags behind teacher evaluation in terms of conclusions that can be made regarding effective practice. Prior to Race to the Top and ESEA waivers, principal evaluation was implemented inconsistently and evaluation systems lacked instruments with validity and/or reliability, had a tenuous relationship with leadership standards, failed to include measures of student/school outcomes, and had mixed purposes as to their intended use (e.g., sometimes as formative information to help principals improve, while other times as summative information to make personnel decisions). However, today’s evaluation systems have evolved to incorporate multiple measures of principal performance that evaluate principals on research-based principles of effective leadership, often include student outcomes (which is often controversial, however), and are used both to help principals improve and to hold them accountable for their performance. Ongoing and more frequent observations, often conducted by the principal supervisor, who often also serves as a coach/mentor and directs the principal towards needed professional learning, show promise as an effective practice. Using the results from principal evaluations for personnel decisions, such as offering incentives through pay-for-performance programs, yields mixed results and warrants further research attention. 

Citation: Donley, J., Detrich, R., States, J., & Keyworth, (2021). Principal Evaluation Oakland, CA: The Wing Institute.




Do Teacher Retention Bonuses Keep High Quality Teachers in High Poverty Schools?

August 25, 2021

Effective teacher retention bonuses: Evidence from Tennessee. The data are clear that students in high poverty schools perform worse on most measures of educational attainment; however, the discrepancy between high poverty schools and more affluent schools is reduced when there are quality teachers in the high poverty schools.  The challenge is that teachers leave these schools at a higher rate.  This turnover contributes to the poor outcomes for students in high poverty schools. Recruiting and training replacement teachers is an expensive proposition for districts.  One approach to increasing retention in high poverty schools is to offer retention bonuses to teachers in these schools.  There are two questions with respect to the use of retention bonuses: 1) are they effective over the long term, and 2) does having a more stable teachering corps increase student outcomes?  A recent report examined the impact of teacher retention bonuses in Tennessee (Springer, Swain, & Rodriguez, 2016).  The main findings are that teachers that participated in the retention bonus program were significantly more likely to stay in their school than teachers who did not participate.  Importantly, the students in the classrooms of participating teachers had significantly higher academic gains than students of non-participating teachers.  Looking at these data through the Active Implementation Frameworks lens, the retention bonus represents a usable innovation.  The teacher retention bonuses are also an element of the Competency driver, specifically Selection.  Finally, this innovation links to the Organizational driver since to effectively implement it, the innovation has to be considered a system level intervention.

Citation: Springer, M. G., Swain, W. A., & Rodriguez, L. A. (2016). Effective teacher retention bonuses: Evidence from Tennessee. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis38(2), 199-221.




How Well do Universities Prepare Pre-Service Candidates to Pass Licensure Exam?

August 25, 2021

Driven by Data: Using Licensure Tests to Build a Strong, Diverse Teacher Workforce. Essential to improving educational outcomes for students is to assure that well prepared teachers are in every classroom.  Teacher preparation programs are primarily responsible for preparing candidates.  One measure of how well institutions are preparing teachers is the percentage of candidates that pass state licensure tests.  The National Council on Teacher Quality ( recently released a report examining the pass rate of elementary education teachers by state, by de-identified teacher preparation institutions, and disaggregated data for candidates of color and socio-economic status.  Different states have different standards, rely on different methods to assess performance, and have different criteria for passing scores.  Thirty-four states provided complete data for this report, eight provided partial data, and nine states provided no data.  Based on the available data, nationally 55% of teacher candidates failed the exam on their first try.  The data vary considerably across states and across institutions within and across states.  One of the conclusions of this report is that elementary teacher candidates, regardless of race and ethnicity, are “too often poorly prepared and supported to pass their state licensure tests.”  The authors of the report identified a number of issues with how states are currently assessing teacher competency.  The report concludes with a number of recommendations for improving teacher preparation programs so that more teachers pass the licensure test.  These data are directly relevant to the competency implementation driver in the Active Implementation Frameworks.  Implementation efforts are not likely to be successful if competent personnel are not available to implement the innovation.  Competency is primarily the responsibility of the teacher preparation programs.  These programs would be well served to attend to the recommendations of this report.  In addition, education policy makers should review their state’s current methods for assessing the competency of teacher candidates.

Citation: Putman, H. & Walsh, K. (2021). Driven by Data: Using Licensure Tests to Build a Strong, Diverse Teacher Workforce. Washington, D.C.: National Council on Teacher Quality




Do Principals Feel They Have Influence Over Decisions in Their School?

August 25, 2021

Principals’ Perceptions of Influence Over Decisions at Their Schools in 2017-2018. Contemporary models of principal leadership are that principals are expected to be the instructional leaders in their schools.  At least two questions emerge from this expectation: (1) Do principals have the ability to influence instructional decisions in their schools? (2) Do principals have the necessary training to base instructional decisions on the best available evidence?  In a recent report published by the National Center for Education Statistics at IES (July, 2021), the degree to which principals in traditional public schools, private schools, and charter schools felt like they have influence over decisions across a number of domains of school leadership was assessed.  The degree to which they felt they had influence was related to the type of school in which they were working.  Particularly, interesting from the perspective of principals as instructional leaders, is that only 39% of principals in traditional public schools felt like they had influence over establishing curriculum.  This figure is considerably lower than for principals in private schools (69%) and principals in public charter schools (59%).  This raises the question do traditional public school principals have a commitment to the curriculum choices that are made?  If they do not, then one has to wonder if they will be champions for the curriculum and effective instructional leaders?  In terms of the Active Implementation Frameworks, effective implementation of the model of principals as instructional leaders requires that principals be involved in the identification of useable innovations, the actual implementation of the innovation in their school, and access to the data about the effectiveness of the innovation.  In addition, if principals are to be effective instructional leaders then the competency drivers of selection, training, and coaching need to be present so principals will have the necessary skills to function in those roles.  Finally, the leadership drivers of technical skills and adaptive leadership skills are necessary to adapt an instructional practice into a particular organizational and school context.  It would be interesting to see how the practices in private schools and public charter schools differ from traditional public schools that results in principals reporting they have influence over decisions involving curriculum.  This article only addresses the question of do principals have influence over curriculum decisions?  It does not address the extent to which principals have the skills to base decisions on best available evidence. Please see the Wing Institute paper on Best Available Evidence ( for more on this topic.

Citation: National Center for Education Statistics at IES. (2021).  Principals’ Perceptions of Influence Over Decisions at Their Schools in 2017-2018. 




How Effective are Interventions to Reduce Discipline Disproportionality?

August 25, 2021

Disproportionality reduction in exclusionary school discipline: A best-evidence synthesis. Disproportionality in the application of school discipline policies has been well documented over the years (Skiba, et al. (2011), and has been resistant to change.  In a systematic review of the evidence of the effectiveness of programs and practices to reduce disproportionality, Cruz, Firestone, and Rodl (2021) found that the positive effects of individual programs such as School Wide Interventions and Support, and Restorative Justice, were either mixed or not evident.  More promising were results from combining practices from different programs and including a specific equity framework for training educators.  The most promising results were obtained when in-class coaching was a component of the training approach.  The challenge of implementing a coaching model was identifying the necessary human and time resources, as well as the financial resources, to effectively implement coaching.  This paper touches on several important aspects of the Active Implementation Frameworks including the identification of effective practices (usable innovations) and implementation drivers (professional development, leadership, and enabling contexts).  The absence of any one of these features will limit the overall impact on efforts to reduce disproportionality.

Citation: Cruz, R. A., Firestone, A. R., & Rodl, J. E. (2021). Disproportionality reduction in exclusionary school discipline: A best-evidence synthesis. Review of Educational Research91(3), 397-431.




What do we know about teacher preparation program models?

August 15, 2021

Teacher Preparation Program Models Overview. Teacher preparation began in the mid-19th century with the normal school, a 2-year course of study that prepared candidates for teaching. This model remained unchanged until the early 20th century, when universities created the undergraduate model, which currently predominates. Teacher candidates are required to spend 4 years obtaining a bachelor’s degree built around a prescribed course of education study. A second relatively recent modification is the 5-year credential model, requiring candidates to obtain a bachelor’s degree before beginning a 5th year of instruction in teaching. The driving force behind the postgraduate model was the belief that teachers were not respected. It was assumed that a post-bachelor’s and/or graduate degree certificate would confer greater esteem on the profession. This model is offered across the country and is mandated for all new teachers in California. A third option, the alternative credential (AC) model, arose as a solution to teacher shortages. The AC model is distinct from the traditional models in that candidates receive formal preparation coursework while already employed in the classroom. Currently, little evidence exists to support the superiority of any one method over the others.

Citation: Cleaver, S., Detrich, R. & States, J. (2021). Teacher Preparation Models. Oakland, CA: The Wing Institute




How Effective is Teacher Pre-service Pedagogy?

August 3, 2021

Teacher Preparation: Instructional Effectiveness Overview. Discussions of teacher preparation generally focus on content (what to teach) rather than pedagogy (how to teach). Teacher training has changed little in 100 years. Preparation programs rely on lectures supplemented with 8 weeks of student teaching under minimal university oversight. Lecturing persists for various reasons: It requires nominal effort, instructors have greater control of what is presented, and assessing mastery of the material is easy using tests and papers. There are significant disadvantages to lecturing. Listening to a lecturer and answering questions during the lecture are very different from being able to perform skillfully in a real-world setting. Research shows that the most effective training of complex skills occurs when the training follows the elementary paradigm “I do,” “we do,” “you do.” This model relies on introducing skills through lectures and discussions, in tandem with demonstrating the skills (I do). This is followed by learners practicing the skills alongside a coach (we do), and finally the student teacher performing independently with feedback from the coach (you do). Research suggests it is only when coaching is added to the mix that skills are fully mastered and used effectively in the classroom.

Citation: Cleaver, S., Detrich, R., States, J. & Keyworth, R. (2021). Teacher Preparation: Instructional Effectiveness. Oakland, CA: The Wing Institute.




What are common criticisms expressed against data-based decision making?

July 7, 2021

Misconceptions about data-based decision making in education: An exploration of the literature. Research on data-based decision making has proliferated around the world, fueled by policy recommendations and the diverse data that are now available to educators to inform their practice. Yet, many misconceptions and concerns have been raised by researchers and practitioners. This paper surveys and synthesizes the landscape of the data-based decision-making literature to address the identified misconceptions and then to serve as a stimulus to changes in policy and practice as well as a roadmap for a research agenda.

Citation: Mandinach, E. B., & Schildkamp, K. (2021). Misconceptions about data-based decision making in education: An exploration of the literature. Studies in Educational Evaluation69, 100842.




Should financing be a component of evidence-based decision making?

June 18, 2021

Cost-Effectiveness Analysis: A Component of Evidence-Based Education. Including cost-effectiveness data in the evaluation of programs is the next step in the evolution of evidence-based practice. Evidence-based practice is grounded in three complementary elements: best available evidence, professional judgment, and client values and context. To fully apply the cost-effectiveness data, school administrators will have to rely on all three of these elements. The function of cost-effectiveness data is to guide decisions about how limited financial resources should be spent to produce the best educational outcomes. To do so, it is necessary for decision makers to choose between options with known cost-effectiveness ratios while working within the budget constraints. In this article, I discuss some of the considerations that have to be addressed in the decision-making process and implications of including cost-effectiveness analyses in data-based decision making.

Citation: Detrich, R. (2020). Cost-effectiveness analysis: A component of evidence-based education. School Psychology Review, 1-8.




What can educators do to promote evidence-based education reform?

June 18, 2021

How could evidence-based reform advance education? This article presents a definition and rationale for evidence-based reform in education, and a discussion of the current state of evidence-based research, focusing on China, the U.S., and the UK. The article suggests ways in which Chinese, U.S., UK, and other scholars might improve the worldwide quality of evidence-based reform in education. One indicator of this partnership is an agreement among the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Nanjing Normal University, and Johns Hopkins University to work together on Chinese and English versions of the website Best Evidence in Brief and a collaboration between Johns Hopkins and the ECNU Review of Education at East China Normal University.

The Wing Institute would like to acknowledge the contributions of Robert Slavin to the field of education. Our condolences go out to Robert Salvin’s family on the loss of one of America’s premier proponents of evidence-based education, who recently passed away on April 24, 2021.  Robert Slavin was an education researcher who sought to translate the science of learning into effective teaching practices. Dr. Slavin was a distinguished professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education, where he directed the Center for Research and Reform in Education

Citation: Slavin, R. E., Cheung, A. C., & Zhuang, T. (2021). How could evidence-based reform advance education?. ECNU Review of Education4(1), 7-24.