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Research Projects


Professional Communities in Middle School

Principal Investigator. Argentinean National Science Commission (CONICET) Post-Doctoral Fellow at IICE (Educational Science Research Institute) National University of Buenos Aires. Director: Dr. Edith Litwin-2007-2009.

 The "Professional Learning Communities" study analyses an alternative professional development program. The hypothesis that is possible to improve the level of retention (only 30% for children under the poverty line) when improving teaching, guides this work. The study analyses the development of professional learning communities which are teacher groups that meet regularly. The Research Action perspective which allows documenting not only they way things are but also the way things could be is the main methodological strategy used in this project. Preliminary findings indicate that teachers' beliefs about teaching, about their students and about the content they teach are the main factors that influence the development of professional communities. See publications.

Formative Assessment: Professional Development Evaluation and Case Study

Consultant, ETS (Educational Testing Services, USA). 2006.

The Teaching and Learning research Center at ETS, developed a professional development program on Formative Assessment. Professional Learning Communities was the format conducive to teacher learning. As part of program analysis and evaluation my role was to develop a longitudinal data base for more than 900 documents (field notes, interviews, teacher reflections, diaries, etc) from different schools and districts. The data base allowed automatic classification of the data in demographic and permanent attributes as well as analytic variables. In addition, I contributed to the analysis of the role of teacher leaders in implementing the professional communities.  See publications.

Sources of School Leadership: Their Influence on School Capacity, Teaching, and Learning

Doctoral dissertation. Director: Dr. William Firestone, Rutgers University. Co-directors: Catherine Lugg, Katrina Bulkley y Jean Anyone (2006)

This study explores how the interaction of principal and district leadership contributes to develop school capacity to improve teaching in math and science. Theories of distributed leadership suggest that school leadership involves several different leaders who perform leadership tasks. These tasks can increase the human, economic and social resources of the school to improve teaching. This dissertation analyzes teaching practices and traces the different variables that influence such practices, including aspects of school capacity and principal and district leadership. From a micropolitical perspective, the study analyzes how the interaction of principals and district leaders influenced the performance of leadership task. The study based the analysis on three cases. Findings indicated that teachers, who learned about inquiry-oriented math and science, incorporated these strategies into the design of their lesson. However, the successful implementation of these strategies depended on teachersí expectations about their students. If teachers had low expectations, they used direct instruction. These findings suggested that both pedagogical knowledge and high expectations about students were necessary to implement authentic pedagogy. Time and curriculum influenced and were influenced by the teachersí knowledge of pedagogy and expectations of their students. Longer engagement in reform promoted understanding of pedagogy. Understanding the pedagogy was necessary to implement the curriculum. Leadership vision of teaching and vision of how to promote institutional change were necessary to implement authentic pedagogy. Principal and district leaders had different and competing visions. The interaction between district and principal visions and tasks to accomplish those visions in a context of high accountabilities, gave place to different types of leadership alignments: antagonistic, parallel, and complementary. Leadership alignment showed that leadership distribution affected the negotiation of visions and the distribution of power. This alignment also contributed to teachersí commitment. See published book.

New Jersey Math Science Partnership

Research assistant, with Dr. William Firestone. Center for Educational Policy Analysis (CEPA), Rutgers University, 2003 - current

CEPA is conducting case studies in five schools that are part of the  NJ Math Science Partnership (MSP); a partnership between two local universities and eleven urban school districts. MSP provides a unique opportunity to explore  how schools with various levels of capacity respond to external leadership. Data includes classroom observations, interviews and documents. Using this data, we are exploring leadership configurations in each school challenging the limitations of the distributed leadership framework and the relationship between teacher leaders' knowledge-power-practice. For my dissertation, I am also tracing sources that influence teaching practice trying to link the macro structures with practice.  

Publications from this project: 

  • Martinez, M. C., Firestone, W., Mangin, M., & Polovsky, T. (2005, April). Leadership Alignment: The Challenge of Distributed Leadership. Paper presented at the AERA (American Education Research Association), Montreal, Canada.
  • Martinez, M. C. (2005, April). "Been there, done that": Teacher leaders' knowledge, power and practices. Paper presented at the AERA (American Education Research Association), Montreal, Canada.
  • Martinez, M. C. (2005, February). Tracking the source of teaching practices. Paper presented at the 26th Annual Ethnography in Education Research Forum, Penn State University. Philadelphia.

Analysis of the CAPA reports

Intern and Consultant at the New Jersey Department of Education. Division of Abbott Implementation. January - May 2004

I wrote a preliminary study, which is part of a larger effort of the Department of Education of New Jersey to assist Abbott schools to improve student achievement. The main instrument to assist schools was a review process called CAPA (Collaborative Assessment and Planning for Achievement) based on the Kentucky Scholastic Audits. The purpose of this preliminary report was to provide an in depth-description of problematic dimensions that emerged from the analysis of the CAPA reports. 


Teacher Quality in Native American Schools

Summer Intern at the Policy and Evaluation Research Center. At Educational Testing Services with Dr. Laura Goe and Dr. Michael Nettles. June - July 2004. 

This project is part of a larger effort to set a research agenda on Native American Education research. This project analyzed three issues affecting teacher quality for Native American students: 

It also examines the impact of NCLB in teacher quality for Native American Education. 

Publications from this project: 

  • Martinez, M.C & Goe, L. (2004) Teacher Quality in Native American Schools. A Paper Prepared for ETSí Native American Task Force. July 22, 2004. 

Professional Development in urban school districts

Research assistant, with Dr. William Firestone. Center for Educational Policy Analysis (CEPA), Rutgers University, 2002 - 2003

The purpose of this project was to help three urban districts improve their professional development system. A comparison of three urban school systems suggested district leaders can influence practices through professional development. However, district professional development programs varied in each district. We analyzed two variables:

The district with the most coherent focus on helping teachers develop deeper knowledge about subject matter had the greatest teacher-reported influence on teaching practice. 

Publications from this project: 

  • Firestone, W., Mangin, M., Martinez, M. C., & Polovsky, T. (Forthcoming). Content and coherence in district professional development: Three case studies. Educational Administration Quarterly.

The role of the principal in generating social capital

Independent research with Dr. Katrina Bulkley. Graduate School of Education. Rutgers University, 2002 - 2003 

This case analyzed the role of the principal in generating social capital. I spent more than 20 hours in an urban school, interviewing teachers and the principal, observing teachers meetings and observing how the principal worked. Findings indicated that principal's knowledge and beliefs about education shaped the role of the principal in generating social capital. 

Publications from this project: 

  • Martinez, M. C. (2003, November). Principals developing school capacity through building social capital. Paper presented at the University Council Educational Administration, Annual Convention, Portland Oregon.

Standards, testing and access to mathematical and science knowledge in New Jersey

Research assistant with Dr. Katrina Bulkley and William Firestone. Center for Educational Policy Analysis, Rutgers University, 2000 - 2002. 

This study analyzed the impact of the fourth grade test mandated by the State of New Jersey. Longitudinal data was collected in about twelve districts. One of the most interesting findings is that poor urban schools were more likely to teach to the test compared to schools located in wealthy districts. We also explored district's capacity to help teachers improve their teaching, findings from this analysis showed that districts with more human, social and economic capitals could better understand and implement the reform. These finding raised many questions about equity. 

Publications from this project: 

  • Bulkley, K., Fairman, J., & Martinez, M. C. (2004). The district and test preparation. In W. Firestone, L. Monfils & R. Schorr (Eds.), The ambiguities of teaching to the test. Standards, assessment and educational reform. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Firestone, W., Monfils, L., Hayes, M., Polovsky, T., Martinez, M. C., & Hicks, J. (2004). The principal, test preparation and educational reform. In W. Firestone, R. Shorr & L. Monflis (Eds.), The ambiguity of teaching to the test. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Firestone, W., Monfils, L., Schorr, R., Hicks, J., & Martinez, M. C. (2004). Pressure and support. In W. Firestone, L. Monfils & R. Schoor (Eds.), The ambiguities of teaching to the test. Standards, assessment and educational reform. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Monfils, L., Firestone, W., Hicks, J., Martinez, M. C., Schorr, R., & Camilli, G. (2004). Teaching to the test. In W. Firestone, R. Schorr & L. Monfils (Eds.), The ambiguity of teaching to the test. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.