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Protocol for Language Arts Teaching Observation (PLATO)

This study aimed to identify instructional practices in English and Language Arts (ELA) that were related to student achievement. In order to standardize classroom observations of teaching, we developed a classroom-observation protocol, The Protocol for Language Arts Teaching Observations (PLATO), as a research tool. The PLATO instrument is based on existing literature on effective instruction in secondary-level ELA and includes thirteen elements that encompass a number of key areas in classroom instruction. In this study, we investigated the classroom practices that distinguished teachers with a high positive impact on student achievement in middle school ELA classrooms. In so doing, the study also explored to what extent value-added measures signaled differences in instructional quality. The study included twenty-four middle school ELA teachers; matched pairs of teachers at the same school represented different quartiles of value-added scores. Even with this small sample, we found consistent evidence that teachers with a greater positive impact on student learning had a different profile of instructional practices than did teachers with lower value-added scores. Teachers in the fourth (top) quartile of value-added scores scored higher than second-quartile teachers on all sixteen elements of instruction that we measured on PLATO and CLASS, and the differences were statistically significant for a subset of practices, including explicit-strategy instruction.  Visit the PLATO website »

Principal Investigators: Pam Grossman and Susanna Loeb.

This project was supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Spencer Foundation, and the William T. Grant Foundation.

Improving the Quality of ELA Teaching through the Use of PLATO

This three-year research project investigates whether professional-development programming designed around the Protocol for Language Arts Teaching Observations (PLATO) can shift classroom practice and student achievement. The study first uses classroom observations diagnostically to provide information on current classroom practice. Based on these data, teachers choose which PLATO elements to target for professional development. Changes in teachers’ classroom practices are measured through ongoing classroom observation; changes in student achievement are measured both through district assessments and the use of a direct writing assessment.

Principal Investigator: Pam Grossman, Project Manager: Taralynn Kantor 

This project is supported by the Institute of Education Sciences.

Measures of Effective Teaching

The Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was designed to support the development of objective and reliable measures of effective teaching. Funded by a $45 million commitment from the Foundation, the project was implemented over the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years in math and English classes in grades four through eight; in Algebra I classes at the high-school level; in high school biology (or its equivalent); and in English classrooms in grade nine. The MET project enrolled 3,700 teachers across six different districts and included the Protocol for Language Arts Teaching Observations (PLATO) as one of the measures used to assess the quality of English and Language Arts instruction. Visit the Measures of Effective Teaching website »

Download copies of the MET report on classroom observations. 

This project was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


Grossman, P., Loeb, S., Cohen, J., Hammerness, K., Wyckoff, J., Boyd, D., & Lankford, H. (2010, May). Measure for measure: The relationship between measures of instructional practice in middle school English Language Arts and teachers’ value-added scores. NBER Working Paper No. 16015.