Charting a Path to Educational Progress: The Teacher Potential Project

Effects on instruction and student achievement observed
Jul 08, 2019

Photo by Rich Clement
Photo by Rich Clement

As states have implemented rigorous standards to help students become college and career ready, the need to boost the instructional effectiveness of novice teachers has grown more urgent. A new report from Mathematica on the Teacher Potential Project, an initiative of EL Education, finds that the program—which includes a standards-aligned curriculum and embedded professional development for teachers—can help fill this need for English language arts. After one year, the Teacher Potential Project had positive effects on teachers’ English language arts instructional practices. And after two years, the program had positive effects on students’ English language arts achievement.

The goal of the Teacher Potential Project is twofold: to enhance the instructional practices of English language arts teachers of grades 4 through 8, particularly those just entering the profession, and to foster student learning and achievement. The Teacher Potential Project includes a standards-aligned curriculum paired with professional learning supports for teachers, such as professional development institutes and in-person and video-based coaching. Teachers also can access a range of online professional development materials, such as books, videos, toolkits, and guides, and participate in interactive webinars.

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Education awarded EL Education an Investing in Innovation grant to evaluate the effectiveness of the Teacher Potential Project. Evidence from Mathematica’s study, which measured effects on teacher effectiveness and student achievement using a rigorous design with 70 schools across 18 districts, can help inform key decisions to help teachers and their students succeed. This study of the Teacher Potential Project is among the first to evaluate a comprehensive intervention of an English language arts curriculum and embedded professional development using a broadly defined set of outcomes over the course of two years.

The program had positive effects on teacher instructional practices. After novice and experienced teachers participated in the Teacher Potential Project for one year, their overall English language arts instructional practices improved compared with teachers who used their district-provided curriculum and participated in their district’s professional development supports. Mathematica also observed significant, positive effects for specific instructional practices that were aligned to the Common Core State Standards, such as engaging students in reading, writing, and speaking about texts; supporting students’ use of text evidence; and supporting students to engage in higher order thinking. For teachers who participated in a second year of the program, there were no statistically significant impacts, likely because there were not enough teachers included in the analyses to detect such impacts.

The program had positive effects on students’ English language arts achievement. Although there were no effects on students’ English language arts achievement after their teachers participated in the Teacher Potential Project for one year, there were positive and statistically significant effects on students’ achievement after their teachers participated for two years. After two years, impacts on students’ English language arts achievement were roughly equivalent to 1.4 months of typical student improvement, or moving an average student scoring at the 50th percentile to the 54th percentile. There were no significant impacts on students’ English language arts achievement if they were in classrooms taught by novice teachers who participated in the Teacher Potential Project for one or two years.

“The Investing in Innovations program was designed to reveal and help scale up innovative practices that have an impact on improving achievement,” said study director Scott Richman. “The study surfaced insights about the effectiveness of EL Education’s English language arts curriculum and embedded professional learning supports for teachers and academic outcomes for students in grades 4 to 8. These findings may be particularly informative for districts and states on how to support the implementation of rigorous standards in schools.”

Read more about how Mathematica is charting a path to progress and helping to improve the effectiveness of teachers and principals in our nation’s schools.


Related Projects
  • EL Education Schools and Teacher Professional Development

    Mathematica is assessing the impact of EL Education’s Common Core State Standards curriculum and professional development model on novice English Language Arts teachers in grades 4-8. The study includes 70 schools and focuses on impacts on novice teachers and their students.

Related Publications
  • Education
    Evaluation of the Teacher Potential Project

    Mathematica’s report on the Teacher Potential Project, an initiative of EL Education, finds that the program—which includes an English language arts standards-aligned curriculum and embedded professional development for teachers—can improve teacher instructional practices and student achievement.