Porter-Leath’s Teacher Excellence Program Partners with the University of Notre Dame

Recently, Porter-Leath’s Teacher Excellence Program established a partnership with the University of Notre Dame’s Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO). LEO helps a cohort of service providers across the nation apply scientific evaluation methods to better understand and share effective poverty interventions with the goal of using research to positively impact people.The partnership matches top researchers with passionate leaders in the social service sector to conduct impact evaluations that identify the innovative, effective, and scalable programs and policies that help people move permanently out of poverty.

For over 20 years, Porter-Leath has used data to drive organizational decision making and to create highly effective services and resources for families in the Mid-South. By collaborating with LEO, Porter-Leath is able to refine the work of our Teacher Excellence Program and enhance the program’s positive outcomes for both early childhood educators and their classrooms. The project’s research design centers on the effect of the Teacher Excellence Program’s teacher coaching on student academic outcomes, as well as changes in the relative performance of higher and lower income students.

Early childhood eductors from classrooms operated by Porter-Leath and those who recieve professional development in one of the NEXT Memphis partnering childcare centers will be randomly assigned to either the control group or the treatment group for one year after which Notre Dame faculty and staff will work to determine the effectiveness of the program services.
The randomized research design will enhance the validity of the resulting data. The control group will maintain access to professional development tools and coaching, while the treatment group will recieve a large range of instructional coaching tools and resources from the Teacher Excellence Program.

By applying rigorous evaluation to the Teacher Excellence Program, Porter-Leath will be better equipped to allocated limited resources. It will also potentially deepen the case for support of enhanced professional development for early childhood educators, as well as early childhood interventions that reduce the “achievement gap” for children from lower socio-economic environments.

Contact Marilyn Donaldson at to learn more about the Teacher Excellence Program.