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Mathematics Professional Development That Focuses On Student Achievement: A Parallel Case Example


"The creation of a PreK-8 Mathematics Specialist credential provides an unprecedented opportunity for Virginia school leaders to improve student achievement in mathematics. If this opportunity is to yield hoped for outcomes, the professional development that supports shifts in teachers' understanding and practice will need to be far more focused, coherent, and job embedded than most current mathematics improvement efforts. This article examines four issues to address this challenge. First, it notes the depth of the changes in knowledge, skills, and beliefs that a substantive move toward National Council of Teachers of Mathematics reform driven and standards-based instruction will require. Next, it presents an integrated model for professional knowledge growth that considers both individual and organizational factors. Third, it examines the prevalence of both individual and organizational factors as described in a study contrasting professional development practices in high poverty Virginia elementary schools that varied markedly in their success in reducing the number of kindergarten children assessed as at risk for reading failure. Concurrently, it outlines features of professional development that support the implementation of effective mathematics improvement efforts. While the knowledge base required for effective reading instruction is different from the knowledge base needed to inculcate best instructional practice in mathematics, the approach to professional development efforts and the role of content specialists in supporting those efforts may provide insight that can help frame mathematics improvement efforts."