The University Record, January 17, 2000

School of Education faculty receive $4.1 million research grant

By Jill Siegelbaum
News and Information Services

It’s not just what you teach; it’s how you teach it. By studying methods of instruction in schools, three School of Education professors—Deborah Ball, David Cohen and Brian Rowan—hope to improve education, particularly in math and reading, at schools in high-poverty areas. And the $4.1 million government grant that the School of Education has received may help turn that hope into reality.

“Many people don’t realize the effects of an inadequate education, especially in reading and math,” Ball says. “We use math every day, to evaluate statistics, to determine probability, and some people don’t have the education to do that correctly. Students are entering high schools without the ability to read and that’s unacceptable.” Studies have shown that the United States is falling behind other countries in its educational goals and standardized test results.

The U-M study will examine school reform programs to learn how these instructional methods work in school. Researchers will distribute surveys to teachers and other school personnel in 150 schools across the United States over several years. The surveys will ask teachers to record their lesson plans and to report day-to-day observations of student activities.

The researchers also will observe classes and interview students and track the progress of students through their elementary school careers.

The high poverty level urban schools from throughout the United States will be selected based on high concentrations of children from families with incomes below the national median, Ball says. These schools will represent a variety of teaching strategies, including schools organized around early reading skills, schools attempting to raise their mathematics performance and schools that focus on individualized programs for each child.

The $4.1 million research grant was awarded by the National Science Foundation, Department of Education and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Working with the researchers on this interdisciplinary project are experts in statistical analysis, measurement, psychology, sociology and mathematics. U-M mathematics Prof. Hyman Bass is helping the researchers design methods of measuring teacher knowledge in mathematics.