The Strategic Data Project (SDP) released two Strategic Performance Indicators (SPIs) that highlight specific areas that education leaders should examine to improve the overall effectiveness of their teacher workforce and the performance of their school districts. The first of these SPIs focuses on teacher placement patterns, examining which students are generally assigned to first-year teachers. The second SPI looks into teacher turnover, asking if districts are identifying and working to retain their most-effective novice teachers.
SDP developed these indicators through a series of studies conducted in partnership with four large urban school districts across the United States. SDP’s analyses help school systems more accurately understand how specific movements and improvements in teachers’ careers may influence student outcomes.
In The Novice Teacher Placement Pattern (Infographic), SDP researchers observed that first-year teachers are systematically being placed with students who start the year performing considerably behind their peers. These results were seen in each of the districts studied, regardless of the demographic make-up of that district, across all schools in the district. In three of the four districts examined, these patterns persisted within schools as well.
This is important because on average, first-year teachers are less effective than teachers with more experience. Therefore the students most in need of accelerating their academic performance are being placed in the classrooms of teachers who are not likely to help them catch up.
The Effective Teacher Retention Rate (Infographic) shows whether districts retain their most-effective novice teachers at higher rates than their least-effective teachers. When SDP researchers examined teacher retention by level of teacher effectiveness, they found that there is very little difference in retention rates between the most-effective teachers compared to their least-effective ones, and that this difference is virtually indistinguishable after the first year. Since districts should ideally try to retain their most-effective teachers, and counsel out their least-effective ones, this suggests that districts aren’t yet differentiating retention strategies by teacher effectiveness. It also raises the question of how, or even if, districts are considering effectiveness when forced to lay off teachers.
The Strategic Data Project developed the SPIs with the goal of establishing common indicators – not unlike a debt-equity ratio in business finance or the on-base percentage of a hitter in baseball – that can be measured in a standard way and analyzed repeatedly over time and in many places. Education systems can use these indicators to benchmark their progress – against themselves, over time, and in relation to other districts with similar populations.
In the last 50 years, sectors such as business, health care, public safety and even professional sports have been transformed through increasingly sophisticated analyses of the huge amount of information being collected. Currently, a vast amount of educational data is left untapped for policy development and strategic planning. For example, few school districts track where they find or place their most effective teachers or what their students go on to after high school. SDP’s goal is to work with its partners – school districts, state education agencies, and charter school networks – to build a growing network of leaders who use rigorous and thoughtful analysis to transform K-12 education in America.
To learn more, please visit www.gse.harvard.edu/sdp/spi