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No Boost for Poor Teaching

Learning - Image by Brenda Annerl (Flickr Commons)
Can intensive teacher-training courses help turn inadequate math teachers into classroom stars? Apparently not — at least not immediately. That’s the conclusion of a new Department of Education report, the Middle School Mathematics Professional Impact Study, according to Education Week. The study found that intensive, state-of-the-art efforts to boost teachers’ skills on the job don’t seem to lead to significant improvements in student achievement, although the teachers who underwent the training were spurred to change some of their instructional methods.

The $21 million study was conducted over three years in 12 large- and medium-size cities. Teachers underwent 68 hours of very intense training that covered the teaching of such hard-to-grasp concepts as ratios, fractions and percentages. It spanned several months and included summer programs, follow-up sessions and even some in-class coaching. The math study’s findings echoed similar ones reached in a 2008 study that focused on early reading.

The upshot, Eric A. Hanushek, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute, told Education Week: “…you can’t change ineffective teachers into effective ones.” Not all researchers agree, however. Stanford education professor Hilda Borku told the publication that it was too soon to rush to judgment. “We know teacher change takes time.”

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