Complex Equations: Algebra Instruction in the Common Core Era

Investigators: Thurston Domina, Morgan Polikoff (USC)

Funding: William T. Grant Foundation

Duration of Study: 11/1/2014–10/31/2017

Research Question: How do differences in the implementation of Common Core State Standards across school districts affect mathematics instruction and student achievement?

The adoption of the Common Core State Standards has instigated a period of rapid instructional change. Although schools are facing similar pressures, they are responding in different ways. This study examines how variation in the implementation of the Common Core State Standards within one state shape instructional strategies in middle school mathematics. By following shifts in districts’ professional development, textbooks, assessment tools, and teaching practices, the investigators aim to provide a more nuanced understanding of how instructional standards affect what is taught and how students perform.

The research sample includes 25,000 eighth-graders and 200 eight-grade math teachers from 60 middle schools in eight districts across southern California. The investigators will examine links between how teachers’ lesson plans and instruction aligns with the Common Core State Standards for mathematics and whether this alignment is related to gains in student’s math achievement within and across schools. In addition, they will conduct in-depth interviews with 24 teachers and math curriculum leaders at four districts to better understand the challenges they face when adopting new instructional standards and the strategies they employ to meet those standards.