Benefits of university and K-12 partnership proven in national study
Student scores improve when their teachers attend Rice’s Mathematics Leadership Institute and similar programs
BY JESSICA JOHNS POOL
Rice News Staff
Rice University’s School Mathematics Project received national recognition this week for its dramatic results in improving test scores of students in kindergarten through high school.
As reported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Houston Independent School District found that students whose teachers participated in the Rice University Mathematics Leadership Institute performed better on both state and national standardized tests than students in the same grades at similar schools whose teachers had not received the specialized training.
“Our programs routinely impact teacher and student performance, but this particular summer program produced even better results than usual,” said Anne Papakonstantinou, executive director of the project and clinical assistant professor in natural science. “These teachers were really happy to come and learn.”
The NSF study compared students’ performance during 2005-06 to the previous year using scores on the math portion of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills and the Stanford 10 mathematics assessment, a national standardized test.
The most significant gains were found in low-performing students, who made dramatic strides toward reaching proficiency standards.
These students also improved on the Stanford 10 mathematics assessment, indicating that their learning of mathematics progressed more than the general national population’s.
“What’s unusual about this year’s numbers is that low-performing students performed better too. Most programs don’t get those kind of results,” said Papakonstantinou.
The Houston area students’ performance mirrored results seen in 300 similar partnerships around the country. In fact, students’ performance on annual math and science assessments improved in almost every age group.
Participating school districts found that a significantly higher proportion of students scored at the “proficient” level or higher on state math and science assessments in the 2004-05 school year than they had the year before. The only exception was in science at the middle school level, where student performance stayed the same.
The greatest progress occurred among elementary math students, with student proficiency increasing by more than 15 percent from one school year to the next.
The study included more than 3,300 schools in 30 states and Puerto Rico whose teachers attend NSF-funded teacher institutes like the one at Rice.
The NSF has funded teacher development programs and institutes since the 1950s. More than 3,000 teachers participated in 12 such institutes nationwide in the 2006-07 school year.
Typically teachers work intensively with higher education faculty in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines during the summer months to gain deep content knowledge, earn necessary certifications or degrees, and receive mentoring from their higher education colleagues. The goal is for participating teachers to become school- and district-based intellectual leaders in mathematics or the sciences.
“The institutes are helping us build capacity, bringing teacher-leaders in the STEM disciplines to districts around the country,” said Joyce Evans, a program manager in NSF’s directorate for education and human resources. “This will continue to benefit their math and science students.”
NSF is an independent federal agency that supports research and education in science and engineering. NSF funds reach all 50 states and more than 1,700 universities and institutions. NSF receives about 42,000 funding requests annually and awards more than 10,000 new grants.