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Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study

Contract Information

Current Status:

This study has been completed.

Duration:

August 2005 – May 2011

Cost:

$21,192,725

Contract Number:

ED-04-CO-0025/0005

Contractor(s):

American Institutes for Research
MDRC

Contact:

Title II, Part A, the Improving Teacher State Formula Grants program, is the primary federal funding under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to support a high-quality teacher in every classroom. The program, funded at $2.9 billion in Fiscal Year 2010, targets high-poverty districts and funds a broad array of allowable activities such as support for certification including alternative certification, teacher mentoring and induction, intensive professional development, recruitment, retention, and merit-based teacher and principal pay strategies as well as class size reduction. This study of math professional development provided by America's Choice and Pearson Achievements Solutions provides an important source of information for the professional development aspect of the Title II program.

Professional development is argued by experts to be an important strategy to improve schools through increasing teacher quality. This evaluation focused on 7th grade mathematics and provided teachers with professional development (PD) designed to enhance their teaching of rational numbers topics: fractions, decimals, ratios, proportions, and percents.

  • What was the impact on teacher knowledge, teacher practice, and student achievement of providing 7th grade teachers with one year of intensive professional development (nearly 70 hours) that focused on math concepts and math pedagogy in the areas of fractions, decimals, percent, ratio, and proportion?
  • Did offering PD over two school years (up to 128 hours) impact teacher knowledge, teacher practice, and student achievement? And, was the two-year impact greater than the one-year impact?

In the first year, the PD intervention consisted of a 3-day summer institute, five day-long seminars during the school year, and 10 days of additional coaching support. In the second year, the PD consisted of three day-long seminars to reinforce the content delivered in the first year. A 2-day summer institute in the second year was offered to those 7th grade teachers who were new to study. The PD focused on both math content and math pedagogy. A pilot in 3 districts took place during the 2006–07 school year. The full study was conducted in 12 districts and 88 schools in 2007–08 and in a subset of these schools in 2008–09 (6 districts and 39 schools). Middle schools in each district were randomly assigned to receive the treatment or the professional development normally provided by the district (the control condition). All eligible 7th grade math teachers within the treatment schools were offered the professional development.

Data collection occurred in school years 2007–08 and 2008–09 and included measures of the professional development implementation, teacher knowledge and practice, and student achievement.

On the Math PD Program:

  • The intensive PD was implemented as intended. In the first year, on average treatment teachers received most of the intended 68 hours of PD. Although a second year increased the total amount of PD offered to 118 hours, teacher turnover over the two years studied limited the increase in the average amount of additional PD received.
  • There was no evidence that the intensive PD resulted in improved teacher knowledge.
  • The PD had an impact on eliciting student thinking, but no impact on use of representations or focusing on mathematical reasoning. These were the only three instructional practices measured in the study and only in year 1. Teacher instructional practices were not measured in year 2.
  • There was no evidence that the intensive PD led to improvements in student achievement in rational numbers knowledge.

On Three Content-Focused PD Programs Tested Across Three IES Evaluations:

  • The PD improved teachers' knowledge and some aspects of their practice.
  • Improving teachers' knowledge and practice did not lead to positive impacts on student achievement.
  • Most of the measured aspects of teachers' knowledge and practice were not correlated with student achievement.
  • The consistent pattern of findings suggests that future studies might seek to better understand on what aspects of teacher knowledge and practice PD should focus, and how PD can achieve a larger impact on knowledge and practice that also impacts student achievement.

The final report, titled Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study: Findings After the Second Year of Implementation, was released in May 2011.

Other publications from this study are listed below.

Reports on Implementation and Impacts of the Math PD

Briefs

A restricted-use file containing de-identified data is available for the purposes of replicating study findings and secondary analysis.