Trying to raise (low) math achievement and to promote (rigorous) policy evaluation in Italy. Evidence from a large scale randomized trial

Gianluca Argentin, Aline Pennisi, Daniele Vidoni, Giovanni Abbiati, Andrea Caputo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Italy is a country showing low math achievement, especially in the Southern regions. Moreover, national student assessments are recent and rigorous policy evaluation is lacking. This study presents the results of one of the first randomized controlled trials implemented in Italian schools in order to measure the effects of a professional development (PD) program for teachers on student math achievement. The program was already at scale when it was being evaluated. Objective: Assessing the effects of a PD program for math teachers on their students’ achievement and making suggestions for future policy evaluations. Design: A large-scale clustered randomized control trial has been conducted. It involves 175 lower secondary schools (sixth - eighth grade) in four among the Italian lowest performing regions. Alongside national standard math assessments, the project collected a wide amount of information. Subjects: Math in lower secondary schools. Measures: Math achievement as measured by standardized tests provided by the National Education Assessment Institute (Istituto Nazionale per la Valutazione del Sistema di Istruzione e Formazione); teacher and student practices and attitudes collected through questionnaires. Results: Findings suggest that the program had no significant impact on math scores during the first year (when the program was held). Nonetheless some heterogeneity was detected, as the treatment does seem ‘‘to work’’ with middle-aged teachers. Moreover, effects on teaching practice and student attitudes appear. Conclusion: Some effects attributable to the intervention have been detected. Moreover, this project shows that a rigorous approach to evaluation is feasible also in a context lacking attention towards evidencebased policies, such the Italian school system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-132
Number of pages34
JournalEvaluation Review
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • randomized controlled trial
  • tecaher professional development


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