RAND Corporation Study of Chicago Schools
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
These results offer compelling evidence that intentional teacher professional learning works.
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.
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.
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.
Our work in Chicago is one of many bright spots from a decade of partnerships with some of the fastest-improving school systems in the country! Read more about current work in Chicago or learn about other promising proof points like the DC Public Schools LEAP Program.
How did one of the most heavily-watched districts improve outcomes for 49,000 students for four straight years? After a decade of reforms tied to curriculum, leadership, and teacher recruitment, leaders at D.C. Public Schools had a new focus: teacher development. We helped them put it into motion.
Building upon the foundation set by the Chicago Collaborative, we’re helping Chicago Public Schools with their next great endeavor: implementing their new Skyline Curriculum. Skyline sets a new standard for instructional materials by building upon grade-level standards and learning science to uniquely connect with the identities and experiences of Chicago’s students. If successful, it could become a blueprint for equitable outcomes for districts nationwide.
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.
Leading Educators thanks the team of researchers from RAND Corporation who led this study: Kata Mihaly, Isaac M. Opper, Lucas 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.