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Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study: Findings After the Second Year of Implementation


This study, which investigates an intensive mathematics professional development (PD) program, found no evidence of improved teacher knowledge or improved student achievement. The study examined the impact on teachers' knowledge and teaching skills for 7th grade mathematics in rational number topics such as fractions, decimals, percent, ratio, and proportion of an intensive PD program including 100 hours of support in the form of summer institutes, seminars, and in-school coaching. The study is an example of a randomized experimental design which has been advocated as the "gold standard" for educational research, but which has been seen as very difficult to implement at a large scale. It is thus an interesting example to consider and discuss, both because of its findings and because of its methodology.

"Findings after two years of implementation include:

• The intensive PD was implemented as intended, but teacher turnover limited the average dosage received. On average, the treatment teachers in the second-year impact sample received 68 percent of the full intended dosage. Because some teachers left the study schools and others entered as the study progressed, not all teachers had the opportunity to experience the full dose of PD.

• There was no evidence that the intensive PD resulted in improved teacher knowledge. There were no significant impacts on teachers' scores on a specially constructed teacher knowledge test or on either of the subscores. On average, about 75 percent of teachers in both the treatment and the control groups correctly answered test items that were of average difficulty for the test instrument.

• There was no evidence that the intensive PD had led to improvements in student achievement in rational numbers knowledge. Students taught by teachers in the intensive PD group and students taught by teachers in the control group performed similarly on a rational numbers test."