The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a five-year, $4.9 million grant to researchers from Brown and several partner institutions to study how state school systems can use teacher evaluation data to drive instructional improvement.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] —Brown University education researchers John Papay and John Tyler have been awarded a $4.99-million grant by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences to examine how state school systems can use teacher evaluation data to drive instructional improvement. The five-year award will support a research partnership between the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) and researchers at Brown, Vanderbilt University, and Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Over the last two years, Brown, Harvard, and TDOE have been developing an approach that uses detailed teacher evaluation data and peer feedback to improve teacher instructional practice.

The resulting Instructional Partnership Initiative uses data to recommend partnerships between teachers with strengths in particular areas of practice and teachers who have room to grow in those same areas. The two teachers are then encouraged to work together throughout the year to build instructional skills. Thus, the initiative relies on peers to implement tailored professional learning with no financial cost to districts or schools.

A pilot study conducted by the researchers has shown that the initiative is effective at increasing teacher performance and student achievement and in improving teachers’ views of the evaluation system.

“The goal is to provide rigorous and actionable evidence to inform state policy and to build a broader understanding of the ways in which teacher evaluation can lead to professional growth,” said Papay. “This grant will allow us to fund a much larger research effort to examine the implementation and impact of the Instructional Partnership Initiative as TDOE rolls it out more broadly across the state.”

According to Nathaniel Schwartz, chief research and strategy officer at the Tennessee Department of Education, “We are committed to the continuous improvement of our state programs. This grant allows us to undertake rigorous research to learn more about how teachers can best support their peers’ instructional improvement. We expect to use the results of this research to shape both the Instructional Partnership Initiative, which makes innovative use of feedback from our teacher evaluation system, as well as other state strategies for classroom improvement in years to come.”

Papay is assistant professor of education and economics and Tyler is professor of education, economics, and public policy at Brown.