A study conducted by American Institutes for Research (AIR) for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) shows that even small amounts of the right kind of feedback to teachers and principals can have a positive effect on student achievement in math. These findings are important for states and districts looking for ways to boost educator effectiveness.
Led by Andrew Wayne, AIR researchers worked with eight districts across five states to identify 127 elementary and middle schools for the study. All of the educators in these schools continued to receive the performance feedback they had received in the past. For two years, teachers and principals in half the schools from each district received three types of additional feedback on their performance: feedback on classroom practice (4 extra times per year), student growth (value added scores provided once per year), and principal leadership (feedback provided 2 times per year).
The rest did not. AIR assigned the schools to these two groups by lottery, so differences found afterward could be attributed to the additional performance feedback. To assess the impact of the feedback on achievement, researchers compared the two groups using student test scores from state standardized tests administered in the spring of each year.
In the first year, the students in the schools that received the additional feedback outperformed the others in math by the equivalent of four weeks of learning. In the second year, there was a difference of the same size, but it was not statistically significant. There was no difference in student achievement in reading/English language arts. Near the end of the study, AIR collected videotape of the classrooms and found an impact on one of two measures of classroom practice. AIR also found an impact on principal leadership.