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IES Grant

Title: Learning and Teaching Algebra (LTA)
Center: NCER Year: 2011
Principal Investigator: Cuoco, Albert Awardee: Education Development Center, Inc.
Program: Effective Instruction      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $1,463,269
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A110451

Co-Principal Investigator: Jess Gropen

Purpose: Many teachers require additional professional development and support to provide high quality instruction in algebra. To meet this need, researchers will develop a comprehensive and integrated program of coaching, professional development, and assessment intended to help teachers build the mathematical understanding and practices needed to model and scaffold mathematical thinking. A set of materials intended to support mathematics coaches will also be developed. This program is called Learning and Teaching Algebra (LTA), and will be fully aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Specifically, researchers will focus on teachers in urban, Grade 8, algebra 1 settings. Researchers will address the feasibility of implementing the intervention in authentic education delivery settings, and will carry out a quasi-experimental study to gather preliminary evidence for changes in teacher practice and improvement of student performance in elementary algebra.

Project Activities: An iterative design process will be used to produce complete and documented professional development curricula for teachers and coaches as well as model lessons, pacing guides, and assessments. The research team will use a range of formative evaluation methods during the first 2 years of the project in order to assess the development process, including observations, teacher and coach interviews, document review, and questionnaires. In the final year, researchers will conduct a quasi-experimental pilot study, examining the promise of LTA for supporting changes in teachers' mathematical understanding and practices and increases in student performance in algebra 1.

Products: Products from this project will include a fully developed LTA and quasi-experimental evidence of the program's potential to improve teachers' mathematical understanding/practices and student performance. Publications and reports will also be produced.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The project will be set in middle schools in the Boston public school system.

Population: Ten teachers in their first year of implementing the CME Project and 2 to 6 coaches will participate in the initial two development cycles. The coaches will be trained by the developers of the project, and will also be professional development facilitators for the teachers. In the third year pilot-study, a sample of 40 8th-grade algebra 1 teachers will be recruited to participate in the program. Of these 40 teachers, 24 will participate in the LTA intervention and 16 will serve as a comparison group. The number of coaches will remain the same. The student sample will consist of approximately 400 students.

Intervention: LTA is a comprehensive approach to professional development with the goal of building teachers' mathematical understanding and practices. LTA builds on the research team's prior work developing the Center for Mathematics Education CME Project Algebra 1 course, part of a four year high school curriculum. The CME Project includes a professional development program for coaches that will serve as a model for development activities in this project. LTA will include two components: (1) a professional development program for teachers, including a detailed implementation guide, model lessons, pacing guides, and assessments, all aligned with CCSS; and (2) a professional development program for coaches, including mathematical background for coaches, strategies for setting up teacher discussion groups, and essays by existing coaches.

Research Design and Methods: The project will use an iterative process of testing and refinement of materials carried out over 3 years. In Phase 1, the team will develop draft materials and instruments, pilot test the materials with the first cohort of teachers, and make revisions of the materials and instruments based on the findings of the pilot test. Researchers will continue revisions of the materials based on the pilot test and field testing in Phase 2. During Phase 3, the research team will carry out a quasi-experimental research design to test the potential effects of the materials on teacher and student outcomes, and will disseminate materials and study results. Coaches will receive professional development and act as facilitators during all three phases.

Control Condition: The third year quasi-experimental pilot study will include a comparison group. The comparison group will not receive professional development.

Key Measures: During development, researchers will collect data on the quality of the materials, teacher delivery, how teachers' learning is aligned to observed practices, and teachers' ability to model mathematical thinking in their algebra classes. During the pilot study, researchers will assess changes in teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching. The instruments will include two assessments of teachers' knowledge of mathematics for teaching (the Mathematical Practices Assessment and the Knowledge of Algebra for Teaching Assessment) and one observation protocol (the Instructional Quality Assessment) designed to assess instructional strategies incorporating mathematical practices. Also, researchers will use in-class assessments developed for Chicago public schools to gauge students' understanding of algebraic concepts.

Data Analytic Strategy: Qualitative data from the iterative development process will be coded for specific themes related to the quality and feasibility of the three components of LTA. A quasi experimental research design will be implemented and quantitative data from the pilot study will be analyzed using linear regression.

** This project was submitted to and funded under Teacher Quality: Mathematics and Science Education in FY 2011.