REL West in the News

December 2014 REL West Research Digest Highlights Evaluating Educators in New Ways

December 2014 REL West Research Digest Highlights Evaluating Educators in New Ways

Alliance Helps States Map New Terrain in Educator Evaluation
December 4, 2014 | REL West at WestEd


After five years of focused effort, educator evaluation policies and practices are taking shape in Arizona and Utah, supported by data analysis and technical assistance from Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West) at WestEd, through state and regional stakeholder alliances.

In this issue of the REL West Research Digest, read about early lessons learned in implementing multiple measures of educator effectiveness in these two West Region states. And check out recent reports on what other RELs across the country are learning as they put their educator evaluation tools and systems into action.

The REL West Research Digest keeps educators and others abreast of research carried out by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) West at WestEd. In addition, this twice-yearly digest may include descriptions of upcoming REL West work, services, and events, and, as relevant to the West region, of publications developed by other researchers.


Three New REL Reports Focus on Incorporating Multiple Measures into Teacher and Principal Evaluation Models

Three New REL Reports Focus on Incorporating Multiple Measures into Teacher and Principal Evaluation Models

December 2, 2014 | Institute of Education Sciences


 Three new reports from the Regional Education Laboratories (RELs) West and Midwest examine a new multiple-measure teacher evaluation system in Arizona and investigate whether student and teacher survey measures should be added to a principal evaluation model in the Midwest.

Principal and teacher perceptions of implementation of multiple measure teacher evaluation systems in Arizona
In this study by REL West, Arizona teachers and principals in 10 volunteer pilot and partner districts reflect on their first year of implementing a multiple-measure teacher evaluation system. The study, conducted in collaboration with the Arizona Department of Education, describes challenges from the first year of implementation, teacher perceptions of the accuracy and usefulness of the piloted evaluation measures, and perceived changes in teachers' instructional practices and in collaboration among teachers and administrators. The report identifies key issues for developers and implementers of new multi-measure teacher evaluation systems to consider.

Properties of the multiple measures in Arizona's teacher evaluation model
This study by REL West investigates how well Arizona's pilot teacher evaluation model differentiated between higher and lower performing teachers. The study also explores the relationships among the model's component measures—classroom observations, stakeholder surveys, and student academic progress. The findings suggest that the model's observation measure might be improved through further calibration and evaluator training and that aggregating observation ratings into a single composite score may not adequately represent teacher effectiveness. The study findings and methodology may also interest other state education agencies that are developing or implementing new multiple-measure teacher evaluation systems.

The utility of teacher and student surveys in principal evaluations: An empirical investigation
Do student and teacher surveys contribute relevant information on principal performance beyond existing evaluation measures? Using data from one midsize urban school district in the Midwest, REL Midwest investigated whether adding student and teacher survey measures to existing measures increased the power of a principal evaluation model to explain across-school variance in student achievement. The study found that two survey-based measures—classroom instructional environment and instructional leadership—contribute new information on the link between principals and student achievement. This information will help district superintendents, principals, and other district leaders understand the quality and utility of these surveys and make informed decisions on whether and how to include them in principal evaluations. The report also demonstrates a process for evaluating measures that are candidates for inclusion in evaluation models.

And in case you missed it, be sure to check out these related, previously released REL products on educator evaluation:


New REL Study Examines the Rates of School Mobility, Dropout, and Graduation for Students with Different Types of Disabilities

New REL Study Examines the Rates of School Mobility, Dropout, and Graduation for Students with Different Types of Disabilities

School Mobility, Dropout, and Graduation Rates Across Student Disability Categories in Utah
November 26, 2014 | Institute of Education Sciences


To understand which students with disabilities are at greatest risk of leaving school without a diploma, REL West examined the rates at which Utah students with different types of disabilities moved to other schools, dropped out, or graduated compared with all students with disabilities and with general education students.

As a group, Utah students with disabilities had poorer outcomes than their general education classmates, but outcomes varied by disability category. For example,

  • Students with emotional disturbance, multiple disabilities, intellectual disability, traumatic brain injury, or autism were at greatest risk of failing to graduate within four years.
  • Students with autism, multiple disabilities, or intellectual disability had lower dropout rates than general education students but also had low graduation rates and the highest retention rates after four years. 
  • Students with hearing impairment/deafness or speech or language impairment had four-year graduation rates roughly on par with the graduation rate for general education students.

By examining this variation within the population of students with disabilities, this study can inform decisions about which students with disabilities most need interventions; suggest refinements to state and district data systems; and suggest areas in need of further research.


New REL Report: Who Repeats Algebra I and How Does Performance Improve the Second Time?

New REL Report: Who Repeats Algebra I and How Does Performance Improve the Second Time?

Who Repeats Algebra I, and How Does Initial Performance Relate to Improvement When the Course is Repeated?
November 25, 2014 | Institute of Education Sciences


Many high school students repeat Algebra I, but few studies have examined students’ performance when they repeat the course.

Developed in collaboration with the Silicon Valley Research Alliance, this REL West study examined how many students repeat Algebra I, how student characteristics relate to the likelihood of repeating, and how well students perform when they repeat the course.

Using six years of data from a cohort of 3,400 first-time seventh grade students in a California school district, authors found that 44 percent of students repeated Algebra I.  Of the students who repeated the course, 22 percent had achieved proficiency on the end-of-course standardized assessment.

Overall, researchers found that performance improved when students repeated Algebra I. However, when researchers looked at the data separately for lower and higher performing students during their first taking of the Algebra I course, the findings were not as consistent:

  • Low-performing students who repeated the source tended to improve on academic measures.
  • Higher-performing students who repeated the course improved on some measures but performed worse on others. For instance, students who initially received average course grades of at least a “C” scored higher on the end-of-course standardized test after repeating the course but had lower course grades on average the second time around.

September 18 Policy Forum Highlights Chronic Absenteeism in Utah

September 18 Policy Forum Highlights Chronic Absenteeism in Utah

November 14, 2014


At Every Day Counts, a policy forum sponsored by REL West in partnership with the Utah State Office of Education, education decision-makers and policymakers learned about current research and explored ways to decrease student chronic absence from school. Access videos, transcripts, and materials from the one-day event by clicking HERE, and click on the links below to see news coverage of the event and topic.

Chronic absence affects 12% of Utah students from KSL.com Utah

Chronic absence a 'huge contributor' to academic setbacks, officials say in Deseret News

More than one in 10 Utah kids chronically missed school last year in The Salt Lake Tribune

SLC School District fights chronic absenteeism from Fox 13 Salt Lake City