Professional Development Participation and the Role of Administrator Involvement in the Math Science Partnership of Southwest Pennsylvania

by Jennifer L. Steele, John F. Pane, Valerie L. Williams, Stuart S. Olmsted

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The Math Science Partnership of Southwest Pennsylvania (MSP) (part of the National Science Foundation’s Math and Science Partnership initiative) aims to improve math and science education by partnering higher education institutions with K-12 schools districts. The specific goals of the MSP are to increase K-12 students’ knowledge of math and science, increase the quality of the K-16 educator workforce, and create sustainable working relationships between higher education institutions and K-12 districts through coordination by the Intermediate Units. This study focuses on the implementation of professional development, examining district and school administrators’ roles in facilitating professional development participation among school staff in 48 school districts. Professional development seems most successful when it is connected to the student curriculum and when teachers are given time to focus on the relevant content and pedagogy. Because building leadership capacity lies at the heart of the MSP theory of action, the key question was to assess how administrators’ participation in MSP activities was related to participation of their staff members, with analysis that used a database of participation hours, maintained by the MSP. Findings show positive relationships between administrative leadership in central offices and professional growth and development of school staff, which is consistent with the study’s hypothesis that administrator participation is related to staff participation. Although these findings cannot be interpreted as causal, they do support the idea that MSP participation at the top of a school district’s organizational hierarchy is related to that among individuals working in schools.

The research described in this report was prepared for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit and conducted by RAND Education.

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