Increasing student achievement, as measured by state assessments, is a perennial challenge. Nowhere is the problem more persistent than it is for mathematics scores. A recently released summary of rigorous evaluations related to content-focused professional development suggested that intensive professional development improved some teacher practices, but did not impact student achievement. The summary goes on to state that not enough is known about how to impact student achievement through professional development. However, two RMC Research evaluations of mathematics PD programs not only showed improvements in teacher attitudes, knowledge and practice, but also showed modest but consistent improvement in mathematics achievement as measured by state assessments. How did they do it? These two efforts (The Omaha Public Schools Teacher Leadership Academy and the Eagle County Schools Math Science Partnership) involved consistent, extended, targeted, data-driven professional development over a number of years delivered by high-quality providers. As the projects received evaluation reports, they made mid-course corrections to PD and monitored the impact of these corrections. Improving student achievement is not easy, but it can be done.
IES National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. (2016, November). Does content-focused teacher development work? Findings from three Institute of Education Sciences Studies. NCEE Evaluation Brief 2017-4010. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20174010/pdf/20174010.pdf