IU Center for Evaluation and Education Policy to help study impact of Math for All program

Monday, July 7, 2014

The U.S. Department of Education has granted the Indiana University School of Education and its Center for Evaluation and Education Policy $279,933 to study the impact of Math for All, a program designed to provide effective math instruction.

CEEP Director John Hitchcock will be a co-principal investigator for the study of Math for All, a professional development program for educators to help them teach math to kindergarten through fifth-grade students of all learning types and abilities.

Math for All has been developed on the basis of current best practices and instructional theory, and there is some initial but inconclusive evidence of its effectiveness. So far it has been piloted with several hundred teachers across several states. The study will investigate the program's effectiveness for 256 fourth- and fifth-grade teachers and their 6,400 students in 32 Chicago public schools.

The grant to IU is a portion of a larger, nearly $3.5 million study involving three other institutions. The principal investigator is Babette Moeller, managing project director at the Education Development Center in New York City and a co-author of Math for All. Other co-principal investigators are Barbara Dubitsky of the Bank Street College of Education, Ellen Meier with Teacher’s College at Columbia University and Teresa Duncan, senior fellow with ICF International, a research firm in Fairfax, Va. Work on the project has just begun and will last for four years.

Math for All is a program touted by its developers for showing promise to improve teachers’ knowledge, skills, and classroom practices as well as student learning outcomes across a variety of school districts. CEEP will help to conduct a randomized controlled trial across selected Chicago schools to gauge program efficacy, comparing data on teacher knowledge and student outcomes in the Math for All schools to randomly assigned schools not using the program.

“The research question, in essence, is ‘Are the students and teachers who are exposed to the intervention performing better than those who are in the control condition?’” Hitchcock said. “We’ll gather data, manage the data and analyze the data. Overall, it will be CEEP’s responsibility to do what can be done to ensure that the study is conducted with the greatest rigor possible.”

Study planning is underway. In the next year, the researchers will select schools from the Chicago Public Schools system. Hitchcock said the study will include typical, average-performing elementary schools. Trial and implementation of the study will take another year, and then CEEP will begin analyzing the data along with ICF International.

Hitchcock described his role as a “methodological” principal investigator.

“In that sense, IU will be helping to execute a strong research design that entails the use of randomization," he said. "CEEP will also serve as a kind of firewall between the people who develop the intervention and the folks who do the randomization and data collection. A firewall is needed because funding agencies rightly worry about researchers who develop interventions and then also run their own studies.”

In the end, Hitchcock said the researchers should have good data that sheds light on whether Math for All is an effective program.

“The really big picture is that mathematics instruction, particularly in the elementary grades, is thought to be a key fulcrum for helping students be on the path for long-term academic success,” he said. “The hope is that we will be able to empirically understand if this is an intervention that works, not only for students not needing special services, but also for students who do need support and who are being instructed in the same classrooms under an inclusion setting.”

Hitchcock, a nationally recognized expert on program evaluation and mixed methods research, was named CEEP director last year. He is also research director for the U.S. Department of Education’s Regional Educational Laboratory Appalachia.

CEEP, one of the country's leading nonpartisan program evaluation and education policy research centers, promotes and supports rigorous evaluation and research primarily, but not exclusively, for educational, human services and nonprofit organizations and agencies. Clients include state and local agencies throughout the U.S., various federal departments, private organizations and foundations, and NATO. Center projects address state, national and international education questions. It is a center of the Indiana University School of Education in Bloomington.