RAND Gulf States Policy Institute Newsletter | Web version

Follow OCR on Twitter
April 2016

RAND Gulf States Policy Institute

From the Director

A teacher high fives a student

Photo by jovannig/Fotolia

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the RAND Corporation provided substantial funding to promote recovery and evidence-based policymaking in the U.S. Gulf States region. In 2006, the RAND Gulf States Policy Institute opened in New Orleans with the purpose of helping to solve region-specific challenges and improve the well-being of our new neighbors. Our early impacts were in improving policy related to flood insurance, coastal and water management, and emergency preparedness. What has been perhaps less visible are our research efforts in other areas, such as education, health, and community resilience. So in this edition of the newsletter, I'd like to focus on one of our education projects that is informing policy to improve our community.

For 45 years, RAND Education has been providing objective research to make educational policies and practices more effective. Our early education work in the Gulf States addressed areas of immediate concern, including the trauma students underwent through Hurricane Katrina and the ways in which schools and programs could help them recover. The associate director of RAND Education, Heather L. Schwartz, is a permanent member of our New Orleans office, where she is actively engaged in improving education in the Gulf Coast states.

Today, I am pleased to highlight our work with a program that is helping New Orleans-area schools continue to improve. A team of RAND researchers, led by Kata Mihaly, Ph.D., is assessing how the Leading Educators program helps to increase student achievement. Leading Educators is a fellowship program that works with school districts to help highly effective teachers develop the leadership skills needed to mentor their peers and newer teachers. Early results from the study show that the program is having a positive effect for students in Louisiana. For this issue of the newsletter, Mihaly talks about the early findings of this study. The report and summary are available online. Additional 2016–2017 school year data will provide further insight into how the program positively affects teachers, schools, and students.

You might also be interested in some research we are conducting about mental health in our local community. New Orleans has seen an unfortunate and alarming increase in suicides in recent years. In a project funded entirely by RAND, Rajeev Ramchand, Ph.D. is partnering with the Orleans Parish Coroner's Office to identify factors related to suicide in the region to identify specific policies that might help reverse this tragic trend. Dr. Ramchand will be in New Orleans to present his methods and some initial findings at a luncheon on Friday, May 27, 2016. Please contact me if you are interested in attending.

All the best,

Gary Cecchine

Researcher Spotlight

Q&A with Economist Kata Mihaly

Kata Mihaly

See below for an excerpt from our discussion with a member of the RAND team, Kata Mihaly, Ph.D., about the Leading Educators study and some of its findings. You can read the full Q&A here.

1. What is Leading Educators and what is it designed to do?

The Leading Educators Fellowship is a two-year intensive professional development program for promising teacher-leaders. Mid-career teachers who are in high-poverty schools and are already in leadership positions can apply to the fellowship.

Once selected, fellows receive training on leadership development, such as formal professional development sessions, one-on-one leadership coaching, and site visits to exemplary high-need schools. In addition, fellows elect mentee teachers within their schools to mentor on a regular basis. The many mentorship opportunities include coaching, observation of classroom practice with feedback, data analysis, co-teaching, and leading professional development sessions for mentee teachers.

2. What did you and your team set out to assess?

The goal of this evaluation was to examine whether the Leading Educators Fellowship was meeting the two goals it had set out to achieve: increasing student achievement and retaining talented educators in high-need schools.

We conducted these two analyses for both teachers who were fellows, as well as teachers who were mentees. We also wanted to examine whether fellows showed improvement in their leadership skills during the course of the two-year fellowship program.

3. Why is this work important?

This research is valuable in two ways. First, many U.S. programs aim to help teachers with professional development. However, there is little research evidence that such programs actually improve student achievement. Although we set out to discover whether there is a connection between Leading Educators and the performance of students in participating schools, we also sought to begin to fill in a research gap.

Second, the information we found would help us understand whether such programs and their mentorship programs are helping to retain teachers in schools that are difficult to staff. Principals are busier than ever before and are being asked to assess teachers in new ways. Perhaps training and use of teacher-leaders can relieve some of the burden on principals' time of improving student outcomes.

Want to learn more? Read the full Q&A with Kata Mihaly on the RAND Gulf States website.

The RAND Gulf States Policy Institute provides objective analysis to federal, state, and local leaders in support of evidence-based policymaking and the well-being of individuals throughout the U.S. Gulf States region. We invite your suggestions for researchers, projects, centers, and funding or collaboration opportunities to highlight in future issues. Write to director Gary Cecchine at Gary_Cecchine@rand.org.

Follow RAND

Privacy statement

RAND Corporation

RAND Corporation. 1776 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401-3208.
RAND® is a registered trademark.