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Linking Student Achievement Growth to Professional Development Participation and Changes in Instruction: A Longitudinal Study of Elementary Students and Teachers in Title I Schools


by Laura Desimone, Thomas M. Smith & Kristie J.R. Phillips — 2013

Background/Context: Most reforms in elementary education rely on teacher learning and improved instruction to increase student learning. This study increases our understanding of which types of professional development effectively change teaching practice in ways that boost student achievement.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: Our three-year longitudinal analysis answers two main research questions: (1) To what extent do teachers’ topic coverage, emphasis on memorization and solving novel problems, and time spent on mathematics instruction, predict student mathematics achievement growth? (2) To what extent does teacher participation in content-focused professional development predict the aspects of instruction found in our first analysis to be related to increases in student mathematics achievement growth?

Population/Participants/Subjects : This study uses data collected by the U.S. Department of Education for the Longitudinal Evaluation of School Change and Performance (LESCP) in 1997, 1998, and 1999. The LESCP drew its sample from 71 high-poverty schools in 18 school districts in 7 states. Our student-level analyses include 7,588 observations over three years of 4,803 students assigned to 457 teachers. Teacher-level analyses include the same 457 teachers in 71 schools over three years.

Research Design: This is a quasi-experimental longitudinal study. To answer our first research question, we employ a 4-level cross-classified growth model using MLwiN software, with time points nested within students, students cross-classified by teachers over the three years of the study, and teachers and students nested within schools. To answer our second question, we employ a series of hierarchical linear models (HLM) to test the relationship between instruction and professional development.

Conclusions/Recommendations: We found that (1) when teachers in third, fourth, and fifth grade focused more on advanced mathematics topics (defined as operations with fractions, distance problems, solving equations with one unknown, solving two equations with two unknowns, and statistics) and emphasized solving novel problems, student achievement grew more quickly; (2) when teachers focused more on basic topics (defined as measurement, rounding, multi-digit multiplication, and problem solving) and emphasized memorizing facts, student achievement grew more slowly; and (3) when teachers participated in professional development that focused on math content or instructional strategies in mathematics (in Year 1), they were more likely to teach in ways associated with student achievement growth. Specifically, they were more likely to teach advanced topics and emphasize solving novel problems. Effect sizes ranged from 1% to 15% of a standard deviation.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 115 Number 5, 2013, p. 1-46
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16963, Date Accessed: 3/23/2017 2:24:37 PM

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About the Author
  • Laura Desimone
    University of Pennsylvania
    E-mail Author
    LAURA M. DESIMONE is an associate professor of public policy and education at the University of Pennsylvania. She studies policy implementation and the effects of policies, especially accountability and teacher professional development interventions, on teacher learning and student achievement. Recent publications include: Desimone, L. (2006). Consider the Source: Response Differences Among Teachers, Principals and Districts on Survey Questions About Their Education Policy Environment. Educational Policy, 20(4), 640-676; and Desimone, L.M., & Long, D., (2010). Does conceptual instruction and time spent on mathematics decrease the student achievement gap in early elementary school? Findings from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS). Teachers College Record, 112(12).
  • Thomas Smith
    Vanderbilt University
    E-mail Author
    THOMAS M. SMITH is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Education at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, and Director of the National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools (NCSU). His current research focuses on designing policies and supports to improve teachers’ instructional practices and their students’ learning. Recent publications include, “Explaining the gap in charter and traditional public school teacher turnover rates” in Economics of Education Review (with David Stuit) and an edited volume on the Organization and Effectiveness of Induction Programs for New Teachers by the National Society for the Study of Education (NSSE) Yearbook (with Laura Desimone and Andrew Porter).
  • Kristie Phillips
    Brigham Young University
    E-mail Author
    KRISTIE J. R. PHILLIPS is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Brigham Young University. Her research interests include teacher preparation, school choice, and educational outcomes as functions of social contexts. Her research combines elements of sociological inquiry and education policy to provide a framework for the range of social and academic experiences of students, teachers, and administrators within educational settings. Recent publications include Phillips, K. J. R., Hausman, C., & Larsen, E. S. (2012). Students who choose & the schools they leave: Examining participation in intra-district transfers. The Sociological Quarterly, 53(2012), 264-294.; and Phillips, K. J. R. (2010). What does “highly qualified” mean for student achievement? Evaluating the relationships between teacher quality indicators and at-risk students’ mathematics & reading achievement gains in first grade. The Elementary School Journal, 110(4), 464-493.
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