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Evaluation Studies of the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance

Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study

Contractor: AIR, MDRC

Background/Research Questions:

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 FY10, 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 focuses on seventh grade mathematics and gives teachers professional development (PD) designed to enhance their teaching of rational numbers topics: fractions, decimals, ratios proportions and percents.

  • What is 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 focuses on math concepts and math pedagogy in the areas of fractions, decimals, percent, ratio, and proportion?
  • Does offering PD over two school years (up to 128 hours) impact teacher knowledge, teacher practice, and student achievement? And, is 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 seventh 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 seventh 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.

Cost/Duration: $21,192,725 over 5 years (August 2005 – May 2011)

Current Status:

The final report was released in May 2011 (see The first report was released in April 2010 (see An evaluation brief that synthesizes findings from this study and two other IES studies of teacher PD was released in November 2016 (see

Key Findings:

The study found that:

  • 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 are 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.