Professional Development at Research for Better Teaching

Our Impact

RBT Impact Reports:

Revere Public Schools, Revere, MA

Over the last 25 years, Research for Better Teaching (RBT) has worked in the Revere (MA) Public Schools offering courses for all teachers and administrators and providing additional technical assistance and consultation. This case study summarizes RBT activities conducted in Revere from 1994 - 2015 and describes the impact of those activities on students, teachers, and administrators in the district. 

Read the full case study here.

Greater Lawrence Technical School (GLTS), Lawrence, MA

Since 2011, Research for Better Teaching (RBT) has worked with the Greater Lawrence Technical School (GLTS) offering courses for teachers and administrators and providing additional consultation. This case study summarizes RBT activities conducted at GLTS and describes the impact of those activities on students, teachers, and administrators in the school. 

Read the full report here.

The Five District Partnership, Massachusetts

The Five District Partnership (5DP) includes five urban school districts in Massachusetts: Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Revere, and Winthrop.  RBT project activities provided to the 5DP drew upon two of RBT’s established program models, Coaching for Sustainable School Improvement (CSSI) and the Data Coaching Program. The CSSI professional development program was offered to instructional coaches across four districts (Chelsea, Everett, Malden, and Revere). The Data Coaching Program along with on-site support by RBT staff was conducted in five pilot schools (one from each of the five districts in the 5DP). 

Read the full report here.


Buffalo Public Schools, Buffalo, NY

Research for Better Teaching (RBT) was contracted to work in the Buffalo School District beginning in May 2011. This work continued through the 2012-13 school year.  During this time RBT conducted:

  • 6 cohorts of the Data-Driven Inquiry (DDI) course for school-based data teams and other district staff. 

  • 5 cohorts of the Observing and Analyzing Teaching (OAT) course for school and district administrators. 

  • 4 cohorots of the Studying Skillful Teaching (SST) course for Buffalo teachers. 

​Read the full report here.


Pittsfield Public Schools, Pittsfield, MA

Overview of RBT Programs in Pittsfield Public Schools (2017 - 2019)
SY 2017-2018

  • ATSR course for all district administrators, principals & assistant principals

  • TEAMS training for all administrators & teachers at Morningside School

  • Training on unit design for staff at Pittsfield HS

  • Coaching & consultation to district & school administrators as follow-up to ATSR course

SY 2018-2019

  • ATSR course for all new district & school administrators

  • TEAMS training for administrators & team leaders at Crosby, Reid, and Herberg Schools

  • Training on unit design for staff at Pittsfield HS & Taconic HS

  • Training for principals on protocols & tools for collaborative data inquiry

  • Coaching & consultation to district & school administrators as follow-up to ATSR course

  • Coaching & consultation

District, school, and teacher union leadership all agreed that perceptions about RBT and the trainers working in the district (Kathy Spencer and Nancy Love) were extremely positive. All groups of leaders characterized RBT as valued collaborators and advisors in their work. They consistently expressed a strong interest in continuing to work with RBT to deepen their efforts to improve teacher evaluation, classroom instruction, and student learning.

Read the full report here.




Skillful Teaching     Skillful Leadership     Skillful Data Use


Skillful Teaching

“Our district is very pleased with the quality of services provided by RBT. … The instructors have all been outstanding and we have worked with several over nearly two decades. Each one has taken the time to meet with district leaders at the end of a course to share highs and the occasional lows. Each has demonstrated depth of knowledge regarding leadership and effective instructional practices.”

Dr. Dianne Kelly, Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Revere Public Schools, Massachusetts (September 2014)


"As I was reading Five Levers to Improve Learning: How to Prioritize for Powerful Results in Your School [Frontier, Rickabaugh, 2014], I could not help but feel affirmed by our work with Research for Better Teaching.  The authors caution us to 'distinguish between the practices most likely to improve student learning as compared to efforts that require attention, time, and resources but provide little or no leverage to improve student learning.' With Research for Better Teaching’s assistance, our district is collectively developing an answer to important questions such as:  How will we teach?  How will we know students have learned?  How do we support and challenge student and adult learners in our community? Our answers to these questions are improving the learning experiences we provide to students.

For four years, we have invited teachers in Lake Zurich CUSD 95 to participate in the Studying Skillful Teaching course.  Our first group was small; however, by the third year we had 40 people registered in the course, a waiting list of 40 people, and a request by the association to offer the course more than once a year.  During that same time, every administrator in the district participated in the Observing and Analyzing Teaching course (now Analysing Teaching for Student Results.  Our administrative team continues to work on providing descriptive feedback to teachers by engaging in conversations about high impact instructional strategies. Collectively we are applying the knowledge and skills we have learned from these courses.

Focusing on the instructional strategies is not flashy, but it is what makes a difference for our students. Because of our work with RBT, we at Lake Zurich understand, 'Nothing is more complex, challenging, or important than assuring high levels of learning for each and every student. And no single factor has a greater impact on student learning than skillful teaching.' We are committed to our continued learning with RBT because it is making a difference for our students."

Jodi Wirt, Assistant Superintendent Curriculum & Instruction, Lake Zurich Community Unit School District 95, Illinois (July 2014)


 “…we collectively realized Saphier had something powerful to offer. His lessons challenge principals to become strong instructional leaders and our teachers to hone their strategic instructional skills.

Many recent studies have documented that highly skilled teachers have a profound, positive impact on student achievement. One of the best ways to increase teacher effectiveness in the classroom is through regular, high-quality professional development. That’s exactly what educators working with Saphier are getting.

While some might balk at spending money on professional development during times of budget cutting, we feel meeting with Saphier is giving hope during these challenging times. He works with 50 administrators and nearly 200 teachers each week he is in Eugene; comparable training at our local university for individual staff would require more than double Saphier’s cost...”

Cydney Vandercar, Principal, Cal Young Middle School and 4J Administrators Board, Eugene, Oregon (2013)


“Teachers are constantly looking for ways to help maximize what their students are learning in their classes. Principals and instructional coaches are counted on to help.  Yet, too often, neither group knows exactly how to make this happen on a daily basis. This is where Jon Saphier and his organization, Research for Better Teaching excel. At KIPP, we’ve been blessed to work with Jon and RBT for the past 10 years. Combining the what of great teaching, the why of research, and the how of coaching, RBT provides a step-by-step guide for teachers and instructional leaders at every level in their career. We’ve used their techniques with both new teachers as well as experienced master teachers – new instructional leaders as well as seasoned veterans. Additionally, using these same RBT techniques we’ve improved the quality of our adult professional development sessions. The central idea is a simple one – expand the repertoire of teaching moves you have, match them to the situation and the student, and use evidence from teacher and student actions and work samples to drive the cycle of growth. I’d recommend Research for Better Teacher to every school that is serious about the craft of teaching and in turn, student outcomes.”

David Levin, Founder of KIPP (2013)


“Rarely has our agency received so positive responses and feedback from our schools and their educators as to the quality and impact of such programming. Time and again schools call us and request our efforts in procuring RBT programs for their schools. Among our network of more than three hundred schools and close to one hundred thousand students, RBT is a recognized and highly prized resource in the pursuit of educational excellence.”

Letter from Rabbi Dr. Martin Schloss of The Jewish Education Project (2012)


"There are a lot of great tools for learning about teaching, for helping frame what great teaching looks like. The work of Jon Saphier is incredibly influential for all of us at KIPP..."

Caleb Dolan, Executive Director of KIPP Massachusetts. From KIPP Foundation video (July 2012)


“LRHSD implements professional development designed by Research for Better Teaching (RBT). Now in our fourteenth year with RBT, we’ve trained over 700 teachers…  In order to ensure all classroom instruction reaches RBT standards, all administrators must complete Observing and Analyzing Teaching (OAT) [now ATSR]…”

Carol Birnbohm, Ed.D., Lenape Regional High School District, New Jersey. From “One District’s Model for Professional Growth” (February 2012)


“… One of the highlights of the November PD day is the first of a group of “Skillful Teacher” sessions, which will be offered throughout the school year. These sessions are sponsored by Research for Better Teaching whose belief is that “skillful teachers never stop learning through experimentation, data analysis, study and collegial sharing about what works best for their students.” This course focuses on a few areas, particularly planning lessons, communicating student expectations and assessing how well teaching is done. The goals for each teacher include: applying clarity to lesson design and implementation, forming clear objectives and success criteria, expanding their repertoire of instructional strategies and perhaps most importantly, strengthening their “courage and conviction to make a difference in the life and learning of each and every child.”

From “What do teachers do on Professional Development Days?” Needham Hometown Weekly, about Dover-Sherborn School District, Massachusetts (November 17, 2011)


[The] Skillful Teacher wasn’t just about how to teach. It gave us a common way of thinking and talking about teaching and learning and experiencing it together…”

Jerry Weast, Former Superintendent, Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland. From Leading for Equity (2009)

Skillful Leadership

“Jonathon Saphier and Kathleen Spencer … are highly regarded for their deep research-based expertise. Jon and Kathy model using the best teaching practices (principles of teaching and learning) that are geared toward adult learners – a challenging task when the audience is made up of busy, easily-distracted administrators…

In nearly two decades as a principal in Massachusetts, RBT has been one of the best providers of professional development in teaching, learning, and educational leadership. RBT’s focus is on what matters and lasts as evidenced by my own learning about leadership and in observing the growing leadership capacity of administrators in Framingham.”

Dr. Grace Wai, Director of Curriculum and Professional Development, Framingham Public Schools, Massachusetts (September 2014)


"Barnstable Public Schools has relied on RBT to support us with our professional development needs for many years and will continue to do so for many more years. The RBT trainers are extremely skilled, knowledgeable and professional. I can confidently recommend RBT as experts in the professional development provider's field."

Dr. Mary Czajkowski, Superintendent of Schools, Barnstable Public Schools, Masschusetts (September 2014)


"The training workshops with Jon Saphier are an excellent example of a priceless training experience that has positively impacted my leadership capacity...the Saphier work has been vital because it has been sustained over time, with teachers and administrators, in the most strategic way I can imagine. The NEHS admin team was so impressed... that we decided to use the materials as the foundation for our Instructional Leadership Team..."

Dr. Grant Conway, Instructional Program Administrator, North Eugene High School, Eugene, Oregon (April 2014)


“We have been strategically and purposefully building a pipeline for creating leaders within our district for several years now through a myriad of methods, including the Skillful Leader Project ... We’ve also been able to establish a more collaborative culture within our district. Key to that has been our teachers’ willingness to absorb and respond to feedback and, more importantly, their commitment to improving their craft for the sake of our students and our entire community. To have these efforts highlighted in this national report [by Education Trust] is further affirmation that we are on the correct path to making profound changes in our schools that help teachers to teach and children to learn, even in difficult circumstances.”

Superintendent Michael Hanson, Fresno Unified School District, CA. From Press Release “Fresno Unified Praised for Focus on Effective Teaching” (July 3, 2012)


“..loved it. [“The Skillful Teacher” course] was some of the best training I’ve had—and I’ve taken a lot of graduate courses. … I noticed a big inconsistency among administrative leaders in how they were evaluating teachers. …So I called Research for Better Teaching. … Jon [Saphier] helped dramatically. All our admin team and teacher leaders were trained in how to observe and analyze teaching. It was huge. We all got the same page about what good instruction looks like in a classroom.”

Susan Szachowicz, Former Principal, Brockton High School, Massachusetts. From “The Big Turn-around”, Boston University @SED (Spring 2011)

Skillful Data Use

“From their work with RBT [the teacher coaches] were able to bring back best practices around coaching such as video coaching sessions and work on formative assessments... The quality of the RBT trainers and Jim Knight were both considered to be outstanding by all involved… [the coaches] are also working together to improve their practice in a coaching PLC since attending CSSI. They now share a common language and understanding of best practice.”

Elizabeth Freedman, Principal, Greater Lawrence Technical School, Andover, Massachusetts (September 2014)


“It is my belief that Research for Better Teaching is the leader in professional development in Massachusetts… One of the most powerful courses RBT offers is Data Coaching: Unleashing the Power of Collaborative Inquiry…

Over the years , we have continued to send teachers for training at RBT when a new Data Coach is needed on a team. The bottom line is that the effects of this professional development were so impactful that they remain alive and well today. It is rare that one finds professional development that makes this much of a difference and for this sustained length of time. Five years ago, teachers wondered why we would want to start PLCs in our school; now, I’m confident that if I were no longer principal, the teachers would demand to continue their PLCs with the leadership of the Data Coaches. They have lived the value of collaborative inquiry and have reaped the rewards in improved learning for all.

…we have been very satisfied with the training we received from RBT and especially the incredibly talented instructors…I honestly can’t think of a RBT course that I did not find really worthwhile.

It has been my pleasure to work with RBT and I know that we would not be where we are as a school without the high-quality professional development we received from their effective and experienced staff.”

Annette Doyle, Principal, Peter Noyes School, Sudbury, Massachusetts (September 2014)


“The Coaching for Sustainable School Improvement (CSSI) and Formative Assessment for Results (FAR) professional development experiences have improved my professional practice and collaboration skills, in return improving school culture and student learning outcomes….

The professional development significantly improved my ability to connect quickly with teachers, build trust, and lead a focused, data-driven conversation that led to a swift change of practice…

Almost all of the schools with which I worked using the skills I acquired in CSSI and FAR showed significant improvements even if I was only at some of the schools for a short period of time… The RBT trainers working with our district for CSSI and FAR led the professional development sessions by modeling strong facilitation. The expertise among the [RBT] trainers is unparalleled and both of these professional development opportunities were some of the strongest and most relevant for instructional coaches that I have taken… CSSI and FAR are essential professional development programs for anyone working with teachers or teams to improve student learning.”

Christine Connolly, Director of Network Academics, Network E, Boston Public Schools, Massachusetts (September 2014)