Math for All Pilot Study: Lessons Learned about Recruiting Schools and the Implementation of the Professional Development

April 8, 2016

Standards-based reform holds great promise for increasing the rigor and quality of mathematics education for all students. The Common Core State Standards in Mathematics clearly recognize that all students “must have the opportunity to learn and meet the same high standards if they are to access the knowledge and skills necessary in their post-school lives.” To date, however, this promise has not been readily fulfilled. Even though research shows that teacher quality is the single most powerful influence on student learning, teachers often are not well prepared to implement standards-based mathematics education with the heterogeneous groups of students who are being served in general education classrooms, including students with disabilities and students with different capabilities, needs, and learning styles.

While there is a great need to improve the professional preparation of teachers, there is little rigorous evidence available to guide this process. A review of research on teacher professional development (PD) attests to the paucity of relevant studies that link PD to student outcomes. Math for All (MFA) is one among a small number of PD programs that have been developed to help improve teachers’ ability to support students with and without disabilities in achieving high-quality, standards-based learning outcomes in mathematics. While small-scale pilot and field tests have accompanied the development of these efforts, they have yet to be evaluated rigorously and on a larger scale. In Fall 2014, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) funded an efficacy trial of MFA to help build the knowledge base on the impact of PD interventions. The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of MFA on both teacher outcomes (i.e., knowledge, skill, and classroom practice) and student outcomes (i.e., academic achievement in mathematics and perceived self-efficacy). The MFA efficacy study is being carried out in collaboration with Chicago Public Schools over the course of four years. During the 2014–2015 school year, the first year of our project, we conducted a small-scale pilot study to pilot-test our research instruments and procedures.