Category Archives: Research & Reports

White Paper | Improving Teacher Practice: Debunking the Myth of the Performance Plateau (2018)

The CEOs of two of America’s leading education consultancies join forces to argue for school districts to play a more active role in teacher development. The “disheartening” but tenacious myth that new teachers improve for a few years and then coast is dangerous because it causes HR departments to focus on the wrong things, write Bryan Goodwin and William Slotnik. Newer studies have debunked the “performance plateau” and should lead districts in the direction of career-long development for career-long improvement. They propose a four-part plan for making it happen, and point out that a handful of districts have already started.

Goodwin, B., & Slotnik, W. (2018). Improving teacher practice: Debunking the myth of the performance plateau. Denver, CO and Boston, MA: McREL International and Community Training and Assistance Center.

White Paper | Student Learning That Works: How brain science informs a student learning model (2018)

Surgeons learn about the body before operating. So why don’t more teachers learn about the brain before educating? In this free white paper, McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin makes the case for incorporating brain science into the practice of teaching. Knowing how memory works can suggest classroom tactics that aid the acquisition and recall of information. Furthermore, adopting a model for learning rather than relying solely on the increasingly common (and increasingly detailed) instructional framework can help teachers layer innovation upon tradition, in the much same way that models help screenwriters and composers to be creative within the audience’s expectations.

Read More

White Paper | Curiosity Works: Moving your school from improvement to innovation (2018)

What if every student were curious, self-motivated, and passionate about their learning? Wouldn’t our classrooms be more joyful and dynamic and our schools be more innovative? In this white paper, Kristin Rouleau lays the groundwork for a powerful new model for school improvement—an inside-out, curiosity-driven approach—that looks for and builds on schools’ bright spots in ways that go beyond improvement and help unleash both student and educator curiosity. This innovative approach relies on a school’s readiness to commit to shared values within a purposeful community, a focus on teaching and learning, support for professional growth among teachers using a triad peer coaching model, and a consistent, deep practice that weathers the storms of change.

Read More

White Paper | Peer Coaching That Works: The Power of Reflection and Feedback in Teacher Triad Teams (2017)

Teachers are surrounded by the greatest professional development resource ever created: other teachers. So, doesn’t it make sense to team up for mutual support and growth? In this white paper, we describe the research that supports peer coaching and lay out the components of an effective coaching triad, with participants taking turns coaching, being coached, and observing. While school leadership can promote an environment that values and encourages trusting working relationships, the real work of coaching needs to be planned and executed by teachers themselves, the authors say.

Read More

White Paper | Finding Simplicity on the Other Side of Complexity: A Strategic Planning Process Streamlines District Work and Improves the System for All (2017)

Managing a school district has become an increasingly complex endeavor. But one school district in Pinedale, Wyoming, has found that taking a systems approach to strategic planning not only simplifies district work but also increases the success of principals, teachers, and students.

In this white paper, Jay Harnack, the superintendent of Sublette County School District #1, and Matt Seebaum, senior director at McREL, show how a strategic planning process reduces redundancy and workload by integrating district goals, strategic planning, and school improvement into one streamlined process. By establishing conditions for success rather than reacting to problems, this process creates meaningful, sustainable change that results in the ultimate outcome: improved student achievement districtwide.

Read More

White Paper | Let’s Rethink Online Learning (2017)

In this white paper, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin and Erika Twani from the Learning One to One Foundation propose a new way of looking at online learning—not just as a different way to deliver standard classroom instruction, but as a way to provide personalized learning to students who may not thrive in typical school settings. Goodwin and Twani argue that low success rates in online schools may be, at least in part, the end result of translating a typical Carnegie-unit approach to a digital learning setting, rather than personalizing the learning process to encourage problem solving, curiosity, and real-world learning. The paper describes a research-based framework for creating learning paths for students based on their abilities, interests, and preferred learning styles, while leveraging the promise of education technology to serve struggling groups of students.

Read More

White Paper | The Road Less Traveled: Changing Schools from the Inside Out (2015)

In this white paper, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin urges education leaders and policymakers to rethink the way we’ve been approaching reform for the past three decades and consider what might happen if we improved schools not from the top down but instead from the inside out—putting curiosity at the center of learning and unleashing a powerful, more engaging system of schooling.

Read More

White Paper | Re-Balancing Formative Assessment: Placing Formative Assessment at the Heart of Learning and Accountability (2015)

In response to high-stakes testing and top-down accountability, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin and co-authors from Measured Progress propose in this white paper a new, more balanced formula for assessment based on curriculum-embedded performance assessments (CEPAs), which better support the deeper learning expected of students today. They also outline how states can use CEPAs in accountability systems and reduce the emphasis on end-of-year summative assessments.

Hofman, P., Goodwin, B., & Kahl, S. (2015). Re-balancing assessment: Placing formative and performance assessment at the heart of learning and accountability. Denver, CO: McREL International.

Download the white paper.

Noteworthy Perspectives: High Reliability Organizations in Education (2011)

In this collection of articles by contributing authors, McREL outlines a case for helping school systems adopt the principles and procedures of high-reliability organizations (HROs) in other industries in order to create high-performing, high-reliability schools and districts. Individual articles include “Becoming the Best in the World at Educating Our Students” and “Best in the World: High Performance with High Reliability” by Jim Eck, “Toward Highly Reliable, High-Quality Public Schooling” by Sam Stringfield, David Reynolds, and Eugene Schaffer, and “High Reliability & Leadership for Educational Change” by Thomas Bellamy.

McREL International. (2011). Noteworthy Perspectives: High Reliability Organizations in Education. Denver, CO: Author.

Download the full publication.

Classroom Instruction That Works, Second Edition: Research Report (2010)

This study updates and extends McREL’s original 1998 research synthesis of effective instructional strategies, providing further clarity on each of the nine strategies and their uses, and generating updated effect estimates using literature published after 1998. The report synthesizes only primary studies, rather than prior meta-analyses, in order to enhance control over the data and provide more accurate effect estimates.

Beesley, A., & Apthorp, H. (Eds.). (2010). Classroom instruction that works, second edition: Research report. Denver, CO: McREL International.

Download the full report.