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IES Grant

Title: Exploratory Study of the UTeach STEM Preparation Program and the Effectiveness of UTeach Teachers
Center: NCER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Dodson, Melissa Awardee: Southwest Educational Development Corporation (SEDL)
Program: Effective Instruction      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (7/1/2015-6/30/2017) Award Amount: $698,273
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305A150156

Co-Principal Investigator: Michael Vaden-Kiernan

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to explore features of pre-service training programs that are associated with improvements in teacher and student outcomes in mathematics. Previous research has shown that differences in teacher pre-service preparation are related to differences in teacher effectiveness. Little is known, however, about which features of pre-service programs are most effective in producing successful teachers. The current project will examine how and to what extent teacher preparation programs such as UTeach are related to the quality of teacher practices that, in turn, are related to significant changes in student academic outcomes in mathematics.

Project Activities: The research team will conduct a multi-year, cross-sectional, correlational study using existing state and school administrative data. Researchers will examine relationships between teacher preparation programs, teacher characteristics, and teacher and student outcomes. A specific focus will be on comparing features of the UTeach program to other pre-service training programs and its association with teacher and student oucomes.

Products: Researchers will produce preliminary evidence of how different features of teacher preparation programs are associated with improvements in teacher and student outcomes. Researchers will also produce peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study will take place in middle and high schools in Florida and Texas.

Sample: Researchers will obtain data from approximately 30 schools from 6 school districts that employed a large number of teachers who were graduates of the UTeach teacher preparation program. Participating schools are diverse in terms of school size and student population.

Intervention: The UTeach secondary teacher preparation program is a university-based pre-service program that offers undergraduate students the ability to obtain a teaching certificate and graduate with a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degree in four years. In addition to the content courses required for their major, students in the UTeach program complete a set of STEM-specific pedagogy courses that emphasize inquiry-based instruction, connections between the theory of the pedagogy and the practice of teaching, the interconnections between math and science, and the importance of diverse historical and methodological perspectives. The undergraduates enrolled in UTeach courses engage in approximately 40 hours of structured field experiences prior to student teaching, all of which are supervised by master teachers and trained classroom mentor teachers. Prior to entering the student teaching semester, students are paired with local teachers who are trained to supervise and observe the UTeach student, providing multiple points for the teacher candidates to reflect on their strengths and needs. The first cohort of UTeach students graduated in 2012 and began teaching in secondary schools during the 2012–2013 school year.

Research Design and Methods: The researchers will conduct a multi-year, cross-sectional, correlational study to investigate the relationships between a range of prospective teacher characteristics, pre-service program features (UTeach and non-UTeach), and student outcomes in middle and high school. Specifically, researchers will collect student-level administrative data on student and school characteristics, achievement, student attendance, and disciplinary actions from each of the districts in the study. Researchers will also collect state administrative data on teachers' pre-service training. In addition, using school district teacher rosters and human resource records, researchers will identify all the teacher preparation programs and pathways that supply all teachers in the district.

Control Condition: The research team will compare UTeach teachers to teachers who obtained their teaching certificates through other pre-service preparation programs.

Key Measures: Data sources for the study include existing administrative data on teacher preparation program features and student demographic characteristics. Student achievement data include state mathematics assessment scores for grades 6–8 and end-of-course exams for grades 9–12.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use two-level hierarchical linear models of students nested within teachers to estimate the effect of UTeach teachers relative to the comparison teachers on end-of-year student outcomes. In addition, researchers will include teacher characteristic variables and teacher preparation program variables.