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West, M. R., Morton, B. A., & Herlihy, C. M. (2016). Achievement Network’s Investing in Innovation Expansion: Impacts on Educator Practice and Student Achievement.Abstract

Achievement Network (ANet) was founded in 2005 as a school-level intervention to support the use of academic content standards and assessments to improve teaching and learning. Initially developed within the Boston charter school sector, it has expanded to serve over 500 schools in nine geographic networks across the United States. The program is based on the belief that if teachers are provided with timely data on student performance from interim assessments tied to state standards, if school leaders provide support and create structures that help them use that data to identify student weaknesses, and if teachers have knowledge of how to improve the performance of students who are falling behind, then they will become more effective at identifying and addressing gaps in student learning. This will, in turn, improve student performance, particularly for high-need students.

In 2010, ANet received a development grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) Program. The grant funded both the expansion of the program to serve up to 60 additional schools in five school districts, as well as an external evaluation of the expansion. The Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard University partnered with ANet to design a matched-pair, school-randomized evaluation of their program’s impact on educator practice and student achievement in schools participating in its i3-funded expansion.

Hurwitz, M., Mbekeani, P. P., Nipson, M., & Page, L. C. (2016). Surprising Ripple Effects: How Changing the SAT Score-Sending Policy for Low-Income Students Impacts College Access and Success. Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Subtle policy adjustments can induce relatively large “ripple effects.” We evaluate a College Board initiative that increased the number of free SAT score reports available to low-income students and changed the time horizon for using these score reports. Using a difference-in-differences analytic strategy, we estimate that targeted students were roughly 10 percentage points more likely to send eight or more reports. The policy improved on-time college attendance and 6-year bachelor’s completion by about 2 percentage points. Impacts were realized primarily by students who were competitive candidates for 4-year college admission. The bachelor’s completion impacts are larger than would be expected based on the number of students driven by the policy change to enroll in college and to shift into more selective colleges. The unexplained portion of the completion effects may result from improvements in nonacademic fit between students and the postsecondary institutions in which they enroll.

Blazar, D. (2015). Effective teaching in elementary mathematics: Identifying classroom practices that support student achievement. Economics of Education Review , 48, 16-29. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Recent investigations into the education production function have moved beyond traditional teacher inputs, such as education, certification, and salary, focusing instead on observational measures of teaching practice. However, challenges to identification mean that this work has yet to coalesce around specific instructional dimensions that increase student achievement. I build on this discussion by exploiting within-school, between-grade, and cross-cohort variation in scores from two observation instruments; further, I condition on a uniquely rich set of teacher characteristics, practices, and skills. Findings indicate that inquiry-oriented instruction positively predicts student achievement. Content errors and imprecisions are negatively related, though these estimates are sensitive to the set of covariates included in the model. Two other dimensions of instruction, classroom emotional support and classroom organization, are not related to this outcome. Findings can inform recruitment and development efforts aimed at improving the quality of the teacher workforce. 

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