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Do Organizational Supports for Math Instruction Improve the Quality of Beginning Teachers’ Instruction?

by Thomas M. Smith, Laura Neergaard Booker, Eric D. Hochberg & Laura M. Desimone - 2018

Background/Context: Researchers have found that teachers’ effectiveness at increasing student achievement improves during the first few years on the job. Yet little research maps the trajectory of beginning teachers’ instructional quality or investigates what forms of support are associated with variation in this trajectory. Further, although beginning teachers face many challenges not directly related to the rigor of their instruction, such as classroom management, effectively implementing high-quality instruction remains a major challenge.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This article focuses on five research questions: (a) What are the initial levels of beginning seventh- and eighth-grade teachers’ mathematics instructional quality? (b) To what extent are teachers’ preservice qualifications (e.g., major; mathematics knowledge for teaching), prior teaching experience (e.g., weeks of student teaching), and school teaching context (e.g., percent of student receiving free or reduced price lunch) associated with the quality of their instruction during their first semester of teaching? (d) What are the levels of, and changes in, organizational supports for math instruction that these teachers receive during their first three years in the profession? (d) To what extent does the instructional quality of beginning middle school math teachers change over their first three years of teaching? and (e) To what extent do content-focused supports (e.g., math-focused mentoring, math-focused PD, professional community, principal leadership) provided over these three years predict improvement in instructional quality?

Population/Participants/Subjects: Participants include 62 teachers from eight southeastern and three northeastern districts in the United States.

Research Design: Using observation, survey, and interview data, we identify the links between the organizational supports provided beginning teachers and the teachers’ improvements in instructional quality during their first three years of teaching.

Findings/Results: Results suggest little improvement in the instructional quality of mathematics lessons during the first three years of teaching and that most organizational supports, as they are currently delivered, do not appear to help beginning middle school mathematics teachers improve their instructional quality. Using in-depth case studies, we explore the nature of the supports provided and their potential links to teacher improvement.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Our quantitative findings suggest that current methods of supporting beginning middle school mathematics teachers are not robust enough to support the type of teacher improvement demanded by new math standards, although our qualitative analyses suggest ways of designing these supports to better attend to instructional improvement. Our findings also emphasize the critical role the principal can play in connecting new teachers to effective supports.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 120 Number 7, 2018, p. 1-46
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22297, Date Accessed: 7/24/2021 6:41:20 PM

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About the Author
  • Thomas Smith
    University of California, Riverside
    E-mail Author
    THOMAS M. SMITH is dean and professor, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Riverside and executive director of the National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools. His research focuses on how leadership and policy influence teaching and learning. Recent publications include: Smith, T. M., Cannata, M., & Taylor Haynes, K. (2016). Reconciling data from different sources: Practical realities of using mixed methods to identify effective high school practices. Teachers College Record, 118(7) 1–34; and Redding, C., & Smith, T. M. (2016). Easy in, easy out: Are alternatively certified teachers turning over at increased rates? American Education Research Journal, 53(4), 1086–1125.
  • Laura Neergaard Booker
    Tennessee Department of Education
    E-mail Author
    LAURA NEERGAARD BOOKER is executive director of research at the Tennessee Department of Education. Her research focuses on teaching quality and supporting beginning teachers. Recently, she published evaluations of Tennessee’s statewide Common Core teacher trainings and of the state’s retention of its most effective teachers.
  • Eric Hochberg
    E-mail Author
    ERIC D. HOCHBERG is a senior researcher at TERC, a nonprofit research and development organization in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He conducts research and evaluation studies focused on instruction and professional development in the STEM fields. Recent publications include: Hochberg, E. D., Desimone, L. M., Porter, A. C., Polikoff, M. S., Schwartz, R., & Johnson, L. J. (2015). A hybrid approach benefits beginning teachers. Phi Delta Kappan, 96(8), 70–72; and Desimone, L., Hochberg, E., & McMaken, J. (2016). Teacher knowledge and instructional quality of beginning teachers: Growth and linkages. Teachers College Record, 118(5), 1–54.
  • Laura Desimone
    University of Pennsylvania
    E-mail Author
    LAURA M. DESIMONE is professor of education policy at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on the education policy implementation and effects. Recent publications include: Covay Minor, E., Desimone, L. M., Caines, J., & Hochberg, E. (2016). Insights on how to shape teacher learning policy: The role of teacher content knowledge in explaining differential effects of professional development. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 24(38). Retrieved from http://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/2365; and Desimone, L. M., & Garet, M. S. (2015). Best practices in teachers’ professional development in the United States. Psychology, Society, & Education, 7(3), 252–263.
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