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UVA-DCPS Research Partnership

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Since 2011, DCPS has partnered with Dr. James Wyckoff at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education and Dr. Thomas Dee at the Stanford Graduate School of Education to examine the effects that DCPS initiatives are having on teacher quality and student achievement.

The first academic paper resulting from this study (“Incentives, Selection, and Teacher Performance: Evidence from IMPACT”), winner of the top research prize from the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management in 2015, found that:

  • IMPACT led both high-performing and low-performing teachers to make meaningful improvements to their teaching practice.
  • DCPS retained its best teachers at very high rates.
  • IMPACT influenced many low-performing teachers to leave on their own; those hired to replace them performed better.

The second academic paper resulting from this study (“Teacher Turnover, Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement in DCPS”) found that:

  • Teachers hired to replace low-performing teachers who left the district due to IMPACT contributed an average of four additional months of student learning in a single year in both math and reading, particularly in the district’s high-poverty schools.

These findings have been widely disseminated in the popular media—such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Education Week. Additionally, the UVA team regularly presents their research at policy and practitioner-oriented conferences. As such, the research developed through this partnership has influenced the national policy conversation on teacher quality and has elevated DCPS’s status as a model district for improving teacher quality and student achievement.

Current Focus

Starting in the fall of 2016, the researchers at UVA have expanded their focus with a multi-year study of LEAP, DCPS’s district-wide approach to teacher professional development. The primary goal of the LEAP study is to understand how LEAP is working across the district, as well as how LEAP is influencing teacher practice and student achievement.

In addition to examining various LEAP-related data, the team will be working closely with approximately 30 elementary schools across the district to collect feedback from teachers, principals, and LEAP Leaders. The data collected in this study will not only inform decision-making on how to improve LEAP in future years, but also will be used to prioritize focus areas and make necessary policy shifts to LEAP in real time.

For more information about this partnership, please contact [email protected].