Design, Sites, and Data Sources
To answer the research questions, MDRC is conducting surveys of secondary school teachers and school principals in five large to midsize school districts. The inquiry began by establishing school-district-specific baseline measures of professional development and teacher practices in place prior to iPD, and the study team will examine changes over time as iPD is implemented in the districts.
Teacher surveys address how well districts identify teachers’ professional development needs, teachers’ participation in professional development (type, content, and hours), the usefulness of professional development activities, teachers’ engagement with those activities, teacher collaboration, teacher observations and feedback, and teachers’ relationships and professional climate. Principal surveys address these topics as well as the support principals receive for helping teachers grow and principals’ perceptions of teacher practice. Across the five study districts the survey samples include nearly 7,000 secondary school teachers and more than 150 school principals.
These district-wide surveys are being supplemented by interviews with district staff members and qualitative case studies in two secondary schools in each of four districts, creating a “nested” structure designed to provide insights into how iPD plays out at different levels of the system over time. The case studies involve semiannual interviews with teachers and school leaders for the first three years of their districts’ iPD implementation. The research team selected case study schools that have teachers who will be involved in their district’s iPD initiative and that could be considered relatively typical of their districts: schools that are not among the highest or lowest achievers or unusual in their staffing, structures, student populations, and so forth. In each case study school, MDRC selected three teachers with different amounts of experience, attitudes toward professional development and instructional improvement, subject areas, and demographic characteristics.
In addition to a summative report, MDRC plans to share formative feedback with the foundation, with participating districts through memos following each round of data collection, and with the broader field at multiple stages of the iPD Challenge through presentations at conventions, webinars, and regularly published practitioner briefs.