In 2009, the 81st Texas Legislature passed Rider 42 of Article III of the General Appropriations Act in an effort to increase reading, mathematics, and college readiness for students throughout the state of Texas. Under this appropriation, funding was set aside to support the implementation of scientifically validated and research?based instructional strategies on school campuses with students struggling to meet the Grades 3, 5, and 8 Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills reading and/or mathematics standards. To support this effort, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) created and implemented 12 professional development academies to provide teachers with in?depth training in mathematics, English language arts, and science. Additionally, these academies provide training in the appropriate use of data to drive instructional planning, the appropriate use of technology, and research?based strategies to improve the academic language skills of English language learners.
To provide formative feedback and a summative assessment of the professional development provided through these academies, AIR, along with its partners Gibson Consulting and ICF International, completed a large-scale evaluation of statewide professional development academies in Texas with the assistance of the University of Texas at Dallas, the developer of the professional development academies. The research answered the following questions:
- To what degree did each professional development program have an impact on teacher instructional practices, knowledge, and collaborative behaviors?
- What were the most effective methods for supporting the professional development throughout the school year?
- How could the quality and effectiveness of each professional development program be improved?
To provide TEA with critical information about the implementation of the professional development academies provided to teachers through the regional education service centers, AIR and its partners observed professional development sessions and classrooms; conducted focus groups with the developers of the professional development academies; and surveyed teachers, administrators, and professional development trainers. Additionally, observations, interviews, and completed teacher logs provided information about the degree to which the content-area-specific (i.e., mathematics, science, English language arts) professional development academies had an impact on teacher instructional practices, knowledge, and collaborative behaviors. The study provided TEA with feedback to help improve the quality and effectiveness of each professional development program.