School & District Management Opinion

Making Sense of School Improvement Program Evaluations (II): The Case of TEEM

January 05, 2008 3 min read

(Readers’ please note: The December 20 posting generated a great deal of email. A comment worth making is one that should be posted on the blog. Emails to me that are not prefaced with “not for publication” are subject to posting.)

On December 20 I posted a piece on Edvance’s review of the Texas Early Education Model. The bottom line of that work, which covered only the first two years of a four-year effort, was equivocal:

There was considerable variation both between and within communities with regards to student performance and teacher outcomes. For about half of the communities, students in the treatment groups (with TEEM) improved more than students in the control groups (without TEEM), and for the other half of the communities students in the control groups improved more than the students in the treatment groups on the student outcome measures. TEEM did lead to overall improvement for teachers, although there was considerable variation, with teachers in both control and treatment groups obtaining both positive and negative difference scores on the teacher outcome measure.

Staci Hupp of the Dallas Morning News translated this into “no proof that most children fared better in TEEM than in conventional preschool programs.” How should policymakers and taxpayers read the results? Like Hupp’s headline - “Landmark preschool program isn’t paying off”? And how should we think about school improvement program evaluation?
Many found the evaluation’s finding discouraging. Quite a few edbizbuzz reader despise the program and the provider - and let other readers know.

As someone with experience in the evaluation of education programs on a large scale, I found this part of the Edvance report intruiging:

“For about half of the communities, students in the treatment groups (with TEEM) improved more than students in the control groups (without TEEM), and for the other half of the communities students in the control groups improved more than the students in the treatment groups on the student outcome measures.”

What was different about the two groups of communities? The Edvance evaluation tells us nothing about this. But we know from other research (for example, see here, here and here) that outcomes relate to the quality of implementation and implementation relates to the quality of teacher and agency support. This also relates to improvements for teachers - it’s quite unreasonable to expect teachers who do not buy into a program to improve by measures designed by that program. If the communities with superior performance had higher levels of program implementation and higher levels of support, it would not be accurate to imply that the program wasn’t working. However, we might infer that the program is only likely to work where it’s wanted, so the idea that it should become a statewide preschool strategy is flawed.

The advocates of TEEM are probably shooting themselves in the foot by pushing for statewide implementation, because they are almost certainly assuring mediocre results “on average.” But opponents equally shortsighted, because it’s quite likely that teachers and district administrators who share a belief in TEEMs efficacy will use it to the benefit of higher student performance.

There’s nothing overly complicated about this logic.

If you really believe in a diet program and find it fits your life style, you are more likely to use it, and so lose weight. Maybe there’s a plan out there that will allow you to lose even more weight, but if you don’t like it you won’t use it. And if you don’t use it, you won’t lose weight.

School improvement is no different. The products and services are not pills; they are programs. If teachers don’t like them, if administrators won’t provide the support, their benefits are purely theoretical. Providers who want to demonstrate high levels of effectiveness should not be eagerly accepting clients who will merely impose their programs on teaching staffs. District administrators who think they can obtain advertised results by imposing a program on teachers are fools. Teachers who don’t protest the imposition of programs they will not implement faithfully are setting themselves up for failure.

It would be nice if more research would focus on this problem, because it lies at the core of program efficacy.

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in edbizbuzz are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
Educator-Driven EdTech Design: Help Shape the Future of Classroom Technology
Join us for a collaborative workshop where you will get a live demo of GoGuardian Teacher, including seamless new integrations with Google Classroom, and participate in an interactive design exercise building a feature based on
Content provided by GoGuardian
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: What Did We Learn About Schooling Models This Year?
After a year of living with the pandemic, what schooling models might we turn to as we look ahead to improve the student learning experience? Could year-round schooling be one of them? What about online
School & District Management Webinar What's Ahead for Hybrid Learning: Putting Best Practices in Motion
It’s safe to say hybrid learning—a mix of in-person and remote instruction that evolved quickly during the pandemic—is probably here to stay in K-12 education to some extent. That is the case even though increasing

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management From Our Research Center How the Pandemic Is Shaping K-12 Education (in Charts)
Surveys by the EdWeek Research Center show how schools have changed during the pandemic and what adjustments are likely to stick.
Eric DiVito gives breathing instructions as he teaches a remote music class at the Osborn School on Oct. 6, 2020, in Rye, N.Y.
Eric DiVito gives breathing instructions as he teaches a remote music class at the Osborn School in Rye, N.Y., last fall.
Mary Altaffer/AP
School & District Management 'You Can’t Follow CDC Guidelines': What Schools Really Look Like During COVID-19
All year, some teachers have said that enforcing precautions to slow the spread of the virus in classrooms can be nearly impossible.
13 min read
Guntown Middle School eighth graders walk the halls to their next class as others wait in their assigned spots against the wall before moving into their next class during the first day back to school for the Lee County District in Guntown, Miss on Aug. 6, 2020.
Eight graders walk the halls on the first day back to school in Guntown, Miss., on Aug. 6, 2020. Teachers in several states told Education Week that since the beginning of the school year, enforcing precautions such as social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus has been nearly impossible.<br/>
Adam Robison/The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal via AP
School & District Management Opinion School Reopening Requires More Than Just Following the Science
Educators can only “follow the science” so far. Professional expertise matters too, writes Susan Moore Johnson.
Susan Moore Johnson
5 min read
Illustration of school and bus
School & District Management Why Teacher Vaccinations Are So Hard to Track
Teachers can now get the COVID-19 vaccine, but there’s no way of knowing how many are currently inoculated against the virus.
6 min read
Image of a needle and vaccine bottle.