two students discuss a math problem at their desks

RAND Corporation Study of Chicago Schools

Students Learn When PD Centers Content

A new randomized control trial by RAND Corporation shows that educators significantly increased student achievement after participating in Leading Educators’ Chicago-based PD program. These findings challenge the misconception that teacher professional development is ineffective and costly—the content and components matter.

A smarter PD approach = a smart investment. 

About the Program

Leading Educators helped teachers in 20 schools across three districts in the Chicago area develop their content knowledge and understanding of equitable teaching practices using an innovative professional learning model. 

Unlike typical one-size-fits-all teacher PD, the Chicago Collaborative introduced a unique model where teachers had ongoing weekly or monthly sessions to learn together. Sessions helped teachers unpack grade-level standards, practice applying them to their lessons, and assess progress towards equity goals in their schools. Leading Educators coached teacher leaders to facilitate these sessions at their schools.

See The Results
math teachers discuss problems in a meeting sitting at desks

The Findings

As part of the federal Investing in Innovation grant (i3) that funded the Chicago Collaborative, RAND Corporation conducted a two-year randomized control trial across 40 schools to compare standardized test scores for students in participating schools to other Chicago students. The researchers found that:

Icon on a a boy with a backpack

Students achieved more.

Those attending schools that were randomly assigned to the Chicago Collaborative program made statistically significant gains in test scores compared to students attending schools that were randomly assigned to the control group.

Two hands grasp each other

Teachers gained skill and knowledge.

In real-world terms, an average teacher became more effective than two-thirds of teacher peers at increasing student test scores after one year.

Overhead view of teachers sitting around a round table

Educators did the work.

Teacher leaders completed up to 102 hours of required training activities, and school leaders completed up to 88 hours of training activities over two years.

The PD applied research-based features including a focus on teaching aligned to math and ELA standards; it was sustained over time; it provided opportunities for coaching, peer collaboration, and teacher leadership; and it was embedded in teachers' day-to-day practice.

The Data

Leading Educators Leading Educators
“Our research found that the Leading Educators Chicago Collaborative was implemented overall as intended and had a statistically significant positive effect on student achievement.”
Kata Mihaly, Isaac M. Opper, and Lucas Greer
Key Lessons Learned

These results offer compelling evidence that intentional teacher professional learning works.

PD content and components matter.

Leaders should strengthen the structures that help teachers be their best. Schools in the program worked to put key conditions in place including diverse and shared leadership, ample collaboration time, clear focus, limited priorities, and both curricular materials and assessments based on state standards.

When teachers learn, students succeed.

According to RAND, the program effect “moves a teacher from being an average teacher to one who is better than two-thirds of teacher peers at increasing student test scores.”

Every teacher has the potential to be excellent. Students benefit when their teachers have structured time to practice lessons, build their knowledge, and think through ways to best reach learners with different strengths. In this fraught time, this is proof that LE’s approach to developing a positive identity alongside challenging academics yielded this difference.

Districts and schools everywhere can benefit.

Leading Educators built on the strengths of each school, ensuring flexibility during the pandemic. Teacher-leaders commonly adjusted the three-week learning pattern to spend more time on the content from week one. Leading Educators’ resources offered a starting point, and teacher-leaders adjusted session plans to accommodate the localized needs of their schools. Teacher-leaders could also adjust the pace, commonly choosing to spend additional weeks on the shared learning component of the cycle.

Stories from Chicago

Want to learn more about how teacher support in Chicago took place? This article reflects on efforts during the 2020-2021 school year to keep learning going for students amid pandemic-related closures.

Read the Blog
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Thank You

Leading Educators thanks the team of researchers from RAND Corporation who led this study: Kata MihalyIsaac M. OpperLucas Greer. We also thank the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Fry Foundation, and Crown Family Philanthropies for their generous support.

Bring Leading Educators to Your Community!

Do you see opportunities to build for real opportunity in your district? Are you curious about where you should start? Get in touch with our team to learn how we can support you.

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