Teacher Quality -- Mathematics and Science Research

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Current information about this program can be found under the Education Research program.

DePaul University
Principal Investigator: Dr. Barbara Radner
Development Project: Algebra Connections: Teacher Education in Clear Instruction and Responsive Assessment of Algebra Patterns and Problem Solving

In the United States, student proficiency in algebra is quite low, particularly among low-income, Black and Hispanic students. A significant percentage of poverty-area urban middle school students in the United States do not meet national standards in mathematics. One approach to improving math performance in general, and algebra performance in particular, is to improve teacher preparation. Often, middle school algebra is taught by teachers who have not completed the requisite course work. In addition, teachers are not adequately trained to assess and respond to student learning progress in mathematics. Thus, there is a pressing need for professional development opportunities for middle school math teachers. The goal of this project is to collect evidence of the potential of a professional development program to improve teacher practice and student learning. For this professional development program, in-service teachers complete three graduate courses in algebra and one course in responsive assessment of mathematics learning, and receive weekly in-school support.

Teachers in 12 to 14 Chicago public schools will participate in this study. All will teach middle school students at neighborhood schools that serve primarily African-American or Latino students from low-income communities. Teachers in 5 schools will participate in the year-long professional development program; teachers in 4 schools will receive materials for use in assessing student math proficiency but do not participate in the treatment during the first two program years (a treated comparison group). A no-treatment comparison group will include teachers working at schools with matching demographics to the treatment schools.

Teachers' knowledge about algebra and their lesson plans will be evaluated to examine change in knowledge and practice prior to and after the intervention. Analysis of student achievement data will be conducted to compare performance of students in classrooms of treatment, experimental control, and no-treatment comparison group teachers. A content analysis of student-written explanations of problem solutions will be conducted to compare students' knowledge of problem solving strategies. The overall goal of this project is to provide a working model of teacher professional development that can improve math learning among middle school students at risk for not meeting national standards in mathematics.

Educational Testing Service
Principal Investigator: Dr. Richard Tannenbaum
Assessment Project: The Relationship Between Mathematics Teachers' Content Knowledge and Students' Mathematics Achievement: Exploring the Predictive Validity of the Praxis Series Middle School Mathematics Test

Prior research has demonstrated that teacher quality, broadly defined, is associated with student learning. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation has increased the demand for teacher competency testing, a demand that is most likely to impact middle school teachers, as, historically, most states have not required any standardized, test-based demonstration of content competency as part of their middle school licensure processes. Despite this new demand, however, the explicit connection between scores on tests of teacher content knowledge and student achievement remains largely unexplored.

This project is designed to examine the validity of an existing measure of teacher middle-school mathematics content and pedagogical knowledge by examining associations between this measure and student mathematics achievement. A value-added model that explicitly accounts for covariate information and attenuation of teacher effects over time is being developed, refined, and employed over the course of this study. The teacher measure being evaluated is the Praxis Series® middle school mathematics test developed by ETS; Praxis Series® test scores are being obtained from one or more states that require this test as part of the teacher licensure process. The teacher data are being linked to student data obtained from participating states for two cohorts of sixth grade students; the first cohort is being followed for three years, the second for two years. Measures of student achievement to be linked to teacher test data include sixth, seventh, and eighth grade gain scores on annual, state mandated mathematics achievement tests. Covariate information, such as students' reading scores on state-mandated tests, previous mathematics courses taken by students, student socioeconomic status, and teachers' years of experience and college major, are also being collected and will be incorporated into the value-added model in order to control statistically for possible selection biases that may affect the apparent association between teacher and student test scores. It is expected that the results from this study will provide important new information regarding the degree to which teachers' scores on the Praxis test of middle school teachers' mathematics content knowledge are related to their students' mathematics achievement.

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Last Modified: 11/30/2006