What’s one potential way to help a struggling teacher get better? Pair him or her up with a teacher who’s strong in that skill area, and give the two of them room to work together, concludes a recent experimental study.
The experiment consisted of seven treatment schools and seven control schools in Tennessee’s Jackson-Madison County school district during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. Using prior teacher-evaluation results, which are graded on a 1-to-5 scale, principals in the treatment group matched teachers who scored below a 3 on at least one area with a teacher who had scored a 4 or higher on one of the skills. After a year, the students taught by the teachers paired with a more-skilled peer scored higher than the average student taught by such a teacher in a control school, by about 0.12 of a standard deviation. And the effects persisted the following year.
While principals and researchers let the teachers decide how to work together, one thing seemed to matter: Improvements were strongest when a teacher weak in one area was matched with a colleague who was strong in that same area. The study was released last month as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The research was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (Gates also supports coverage of college- and career-ready standards in Education Week.)
A version of this article appeared in the March 09, 2016 edition of Education Week