Cover: Improving Teaching Effectiveness: Access to Effective Teaching

Improving Teaching Effectiveness: Access to Effective Teaching

The Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching Through 2013–2014

Published Jun 6, 2016

by Matthew D. Baird, John Engberg, Gerald P. Hunter, Benjamin K. Master


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Research Questions

  1. What are the trends in the distribution of effective teachers between low-income minority (LIM) students and other students?
  2. What mechanisms might explain changes in LIM students' access to effective teaching?

As part of its effective-teaching initiative, Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has partnered with three urban school districts across the United States and a group of four charter management organizations to undertake a set of strategic human-capital reforms. The reforms are intended to improve teachers' overall effectiveness and to ensure that low-income minority (LIM) students have access to highly effective teachers. Lack of access to effective teaching has been identified as a possible contributor to the well-documented achievement gap between LIM students and their more-advantaged peers.

This report attends to the distribution of effective teachers within and across schools in the Intensive Partnership sites. The authors first examine the trends in the distribution of effective teachers between LIM students and other students. They also examine whether any of a variety of mechanisms can explain changes in LIM students' access to effective teaching. These mechanisms include increasing the percentage of LIM students whom effective teachers teach, increasing the effectiveness of teachers with large percentages of LIM students, and replacing less effective teachers of LIM students with more-effective teachers.

Key Findings

Preintervention Sorting Patterns Generally Favored Low-Income Minority (LIM) Students

  • Preintervention sorting patterns generally favored LIM students in most sites, subjects, and years, and those patterns have persisted in some cases during the intervention years. This was largely true before the intervention and has remained fairly consistent since the intervention began.

Sorting Between Schools Has Generally Been More Favorable to LIM Students Than Sorting Within Schools Has Been

  • The sites are more successful at placing the most-effective teachers in schools with a high percentage of LIM students than they are in placing the most-effective teachers within each school in high-LIM classrooms.
  • The authors found no consistent pattern of greater negative sorting within schools during middle school. In some years, within-school sorting is greater in middle school grades; in some years, it is greater in elementary school grades.

LIM Students Enjoyed Slightly Better-Than-Average Access to High-Performing Teachers Before the Intensive Partnerships Intervention Commenced

  • This favorable pattern has largely persisted and increased slightly overall, although all sites are not taking the same steps toward improving access.


  • Sites should determine whether there are feasible opportunities to improve within-school sorting.
  • The Intensive Partnership sites should pay particular attention to within-school dynamics that might restrict LIM students' access to the top teachers in their schools.

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For this document, different permissions for re-use apply. Please refer to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation section on our permissions page.

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