Duquesne evaluates city school math grant

By Marie Jubert | The Duquesne Duke

Duquesne is part of a collaborative effort to evaluate the effects of an $8 million grant received by Pittsburgh Public Schools to boost middle and high school math programs.

The grant, provided by the National Science Foundation, will be awarded over the course of five years.

The research initiative is a collaborative effort between Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne. The three institutions will work closely with the Education Development Center, a non-profit organization based in Massachusetts.

Duquesne School of Education professors Melissa Boston and Carol Parke are responsible for evaluating the effects of the grant on the math programs of Pittsburgh Public Schools.

“We collect and analyze data on the Professional Development Initiative for Teachers and conduct research on what teachers use in the classroom,” Boston said.

According to Boston, the purpose of the grant is to “increase access to math classes to under-represented students and to increase students’ mathematical achievement.”

Pitt is responsible for collecting research for the project. Boston said she and Parke evaluate the grant by analyzing a subset of Pitt’s data, which is a critical aspect of their assessment. Boston also said Carnegie Mellon’s role is to help design activities for the teacher’s summer math workshop.

Both Parke and Boston will go into classrooms to videotape lessons to collect “qualitative” data. The Instructional Quality Assessment of Mathematics tool kit, created by Boston, will collect the lessons in order to see the impact of professional development on instruction.

According to Boston, the tool kit is a rubric that looks for evidence of reform-oriented math instruction: instruction that reflects common core standards of mathematical practice. The new instruction is designed to engage students in reasoning, thinking and problem solving.

Boston and Parke will also conduct evaluations with quantitative data. They will be looking at state achievement data such as the PSSA tests that Pennsylvania students take in the 8th and 11th grade. The state Keystone tests will also be taken into consideration for Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2.

The professors are using this academic year to plan the project, which started on Oct. 1, according to Boston. The evaluations will take place over two phases, and in each phase, they hope to evaluate 40 high school math teachers.

Parke expects that positive changes will surface by 2018.

“We are hoping to see that Professional Development did have an improvement in what teachers are able to do in the classroom,” Parke said. “We hope that it will improve teaching and that student learning will improve based on that teaching.”