Research Library

Search over three decades of research on mindsets, including Mindset Scholars Network briefs and working papers, and other publications from Network studies and initiatives.

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In this paper, the author exploits the random assignment of class rosters in the MET Project to estimate teacher effects on students’ performance on complex open-ended tasks in math and reading, as well as their growth mindset, grit, and effort in class. Large teacher effects are found across this expanded set of outcomes, but weak relationships are found between these effects and performance measures used in current teacher evaluation systems including value-added to state standardized tests. These findings suggest teacher effectiveness is multidimensional, and high-stakes evaluation decisions are only weakly informed by the degree to which teachers are developing students’ complex cognitive skills and social-emotional competencies.

Researchers commonly interpret effect sizes by applying benchmarks proposed by Cohen over a half century ago. However, effects that are small by Cohen’s standards are often large in the context of field-based education interventions. This focus on magnitude also obscures important differences in study features, program costs, and scalability. This paper proposes a new framework for interpreting effect sizes of education interventions, which consists of five broadly applicable guidelines and a detailed schema for interpreting effects from causal studies with standardized achievement outcomes. The schema introduces new effect-size and cost benchmarks, while also considering program scalability. Together, the framework provides scholars and research consumers with an empirically-based, practical approach for interpreting the policy importance of effect sizes from education interventions.

Research has focused predominantly on how teachers affect students’ achievement on tests despite evidence that a broad range of attitudes and behaviors are equally important to their long-term success. The research teams finds that upper-elementary teachers have large effects on self-reported measures of students’ self-efficacy in math, and happiness and behavior in class. Students’ attitudes and behaviors are predicted by teaching practices most proximal to these measures, including teachers’ emotional support and classroom organization.

However, teachers who are effective at improving test scores often are not equally effective at improving students’ attitudes and behaviors. These findings lend empirical evidence to well-established theory on the multidimensional nature of teaching and the need to identify strategies for improving the full range of teachers’ skills.

In this paper, Matthew Kraft uses the random assignment of class rosters in the MET Project to estimate teacher effects on students’ performance on complex open-ended tasks in math and reading, as well as their growth mindset, grit, and effort in class. The findings suggested large teacher effects across this expanded set of outcomes, but weak relationships between these effects and performance measures used in current teacher evaluation systems including value-added to state standardized tests. These findings suggest teacher effectiveness is multidimensional and high-stakes evaluation decisions are only weakly informed by the degree to which teachers are developing students’ complex cognitive skills and social-emotional competencies.

The research team studies the relationship between school organizational contexts, teacher turnover, and student achievement in New York City (NYC) middle schools. Using factor analysis, they construct measures of four distinct dimensions of school climate captured on the annual NYC School Survey. They then identify credible estimates by isolating variation in organizational contexts within schools over time. The team finds that improvements in school leadership especially, as well as in academic expectations, teacher relationships, and school safety are all independently associated with corresponding reductions in teacher turnover. Increases in school safety and academic expectations also correspond with student achievement gains. These results are robust to a range of threats to validity suggesting that their findings are consistent with an underlying causal relationship.

To investigate the impact schools have on both academic performance and cognitive skills, the researchers related standardized achievement-test scores to measures of cognitive skills in a large sample of eighth-grade students attending traditional, exam, and charter public schools. Test scores and gains in test scores over time correlated with measures of cognitive skills. Despite wide variation in test scores across schools, differences in cognitive skills across schools were negligible after we controlled for fourth-grade test scores. Random offers of enrollment to oversubscribed charter schools resulted in positive impacts of such school attendance on math achievement but had no impact on cognitive skills. These findings suggest that schools that improve standardized achievement-test scores do so primarily through channels other than improving cognitive skills.

This paper examines the degree to which teachers help students develop non-cognitive skills needed to succeed in the labor market. The researchers leverage data from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project to estimate teacher effects on students’ performance on cognitively demanding open-ended tasks in math and reading, as well as their growth mindset, grit, and effort in class. Exploiting the random assignment of class rosters among sets of general elementary teachers in the same grades and schools, the research team found substantial variation in teacher effects on complex task performance and social-emotional measures. Effects are of similar magnitude to teacher effects on state standardized tests. The study shows that high-stakes decisions based on existing teacher performance measures largely fail to consider the degree to which teachers are developing the skills and competencies most in demand by employers.

We used self-report surveys to gather information on a broad set of non-cognitive skills from 1,368 8th-grade students attending Boston public schools and linked this information to administrative data on their demographics and test scores. At the student level, scales measuring conscientiousness, self-control, grit, and growth mindset are positively correlated with attendance, behavior, and test-score gains between 4th- and 8th-grade. Our results therefore highlight the importance of improved measurement of non-cognitive skills in order to capitalize on their promise as a tool to inform education practice and policy.

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