Laura M. Desimone


Education Policy Division

Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania

Phone: 215-746-5699


Professional Biography

Dr. Desimone joined the faculty as associate professor in 2007. Before that, she served on the faculty at Vanderbilt University, worked as a senior research scientist at the American Institutes for Research, and was a post-doctoral research associate at Yale University's Bush Center in Child Development and Social Policy. She also was a researcher at RAND in Washington, D.C., and at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.


Ph.D. (Public Policy Analysis) The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1996.

M.P.A. (Concentration in Education Policy) The American University, 1991.

B.A. (American Studies) Wesleyan University, 1990.

Research Interests and Current Projects

Dr. Desimone studies how state, district, and school-level policy can better promote changes in teaching that lead to improved student achievement and to closing the achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students. Dr. Desimone’s research covers three main areas: (1) policy effects on teaching and learning, (2) policy implementation, and (3) the improvement of methods for studying policy effects and implementation (e.g., improving surveys and using multiple methodologies). She studies all levels of the system (national, state, district, school, and classroom), and focuses on three policy areas at the forefront of education reform: standards-based reform, comprehensive school reform, and teacher quality initiatives (e.g., teachers’ professional development, induction and mentoring).

Dr. Desimone’s work has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including American Education Research Journal, Educational Researcher, and Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Her work has been supported by grants from the Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation. Dr. Desimone was a National Academy of Education post-doctoral fellow in 2002-2003.

Dr. Desimone has served in technical advisory roles to several national organizations, including the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, the Comprehensive School Reform Clearinghouse, and the National Study of No Child Left Behind. She has been on the editorial boards of Educational Administration Quarterly and Educational Researcher.

Current Research Projects. Desimone is co-director of the $10 million 5-year Center for Standards, Assessments, Instruction and Learning (C-SAIL), awarded in July 2015 by the Institute for Education Sciences. The Center studies the implementation of the common core and other college and career ready standards across the nation, identifying supports and barriers to implementation, effects on student learning and college going, and testing a web-based coaching intervention to support teachers’ classroom implementation, with special attention to low-achieving students. This project provides opportunities for graduate students to engage all aspects of the research, including state and district interviews, district, principal and teacher survey development and analysis, longitudinal secondary data analysis, and randomized control trial administration and analysis.

Desimone is also PI of Shared Solutions, a research to practice partnership between the School District of Philadelphia and Penn GSE. Shared Solutions is studying the District’s school improvement efforts. This project provides opportunities for graduate students to analyze district survey and administrative data to identify successful paths to school improvement, and to interact with practitioners in building mutual capacity to understand and use data to make school improvement decisions.

A third project a randomized control trial of a software-based mathematics intervention across 6th grade classrooms in Philadelphia. She is examining how classroom implementation differs across teachers, and identifying the supports and challenges to implementation, as well as how the intervention differentially affects students from different backgrounds.

Selected Publications

Covay, E., Desimone, L., Phillips, K., & *Spencer, K. (2015). How does math instruction differ for children of different racial/ethnic and income backgrounds? American Journal of Education.

Desimone, L., McMaken, J., & Hochberg, E. (forthcoming, 2015). Teacher knowledge and instruction in beginning teaching: How do they grow and how are they linked? Teachers College Record.

Polikoff, M. S., Desimone, L. M., Hochberg, E. D., & Porter, A. C. (forthcoming, 2015). Mentor policy and the quality of mentoring. Elementary School Journal, 116(1).

Bowden, J., & Desimone, L.M. (2014). More work, less play: The changing nature of kindergarten. Teachers College Record.

Desimone, L., Hochberg, E., Polikoff, M., Porter, A., Schwartz, R., & Johnson, L. (2014). Formal and informal mentoring: Compensatory, complementary, or consistent? Journal of Teacher Education, 65(2), 88-110. (This article won the Distinguished Research in Teacher Education Award from the Association of Teacher Educators)

Desimone, L. (2013). Teacher and administrator responses to standards-based reform. Teachers College Record, 115(8), 1-53.

Desimone, L., Smith, T., & Phillips, K. (2013). Linking student achievement growth to professional development participation and changes in instruction: A longitudinal study of elementary students and teachers in Title I schools. Teachers College Record, 115(5), 1-46.

Rowley, K., Desimone, L., & Smith, T.Teacher participation in content-focused professional development and the role of state policy. Teachers College Record, 113(1), 2011.

Desimone, L. : Toward a more refined theory of school effects: A study of the relationship between professional community and mathematics teaching in early elementary school. Research and Theory in Educational Administration. C. Miskel & W. Hoy (eds.). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing, 2002.

Hochberg, E., & Desimone, L.: Professional development in the accountability context: Building capacity to achieve standards. Educational Psychologist 45(2): 89-106, 2010.

Desimone, L. & Long, D.Teacher Effects and the Achievement Gap: Do Teacher and Teaching Quality Influence the Achievement Gap Between Black and White and High- and Low-SES Students in the Early Grades? Teachers College Record 112(12): pp. 3024-3073, 2010.

Desimone, L.M., Long, D., & Fang, M.: Does conceptual instruction and time spent on mathematics decrease the student achievement gap in early elementary school? Findings from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS). Teachers College Record 112(12), 2010.

Desimone, L. & Smith, T., & Frisvold, D.Survey measures of classroom instruction: Comparing student and teacher reports Educational Policy 24(2), 2010.

Desimone, L.: Complementary methods for policy research. AERA Handbook on Education Policy Research, section on Conducting Policy Research: Methodological Approaches. D. Plank, G. Sykes, & B. Schneider, (eds.). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association, 2009.

Desimone, L.: How can we best measure teacher’s professional development and its effects on teachers and students? Educational Researcher 38(3): 181-199, 2009.

Desimone, L.Whole-school change Toward positive youth development: Transforming schools and community programs. M. Shinn & H. Yoshikawa (eds.). New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Desimone, L., Smith, T., Frisvold, D.Has NCLB improved teacher and teaching quality for disadvantaged students? Standards-based Reform and the Poverty Gap. A. Gamoran (eds.). Brookings Institution, Washington DC, 2007.

Smith, T.M., Desimone, L.M., & Zeidner, T., Dunn, A.C., Bhatt, M., & Rumyantseva: Inquiry-oriented instruction in science: Who teaches that way? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 9(29): 169-199, 2007.

Desimone, L.M., Smith, T.S., & Rowley, K. : Does Policy Influence Mathematics and Science Teachers’ Participation in Professional Development? Teachers College Record 109(5): 1086-1122, 2007.

Desimone, L., Smith, T., & Ueno, K.Are teachers who need sustained, content-focused professional development getting it? An administrator’s dilemma Educational Administration Quarterly 42(2): 179-215, 2006.

Desimone, L.Consider the Source: Response Differences Among Teachers, Principals and Districts on Survey Questions About Their Education Policy Environment Educational Policy 20(4): 640-676, 2006.

Desimone, L. : Professional development and standards-based reform. The Praeger Handbook of the American High School: An Encyclopedia. K. Borman (eds.). Westport, CT: Praeger Publishing Company, 2006.

Desimone, L., Smith, T., Baker, D., & Ueno, K.The Distribution of Teaching Quality in Mathematics: Assessing Barriers to the Reform of United States Mathematics Instruction from an International Perspective American Educational Research Journal 42(3): 501-535, 2005.

Smith, T., Desimone, L., Ueno, K. : Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 27(1): 75-109, 2005.

Desimone, L.M., Smith, T.S., Hayes, S., & Frisvold, D.: Beyond Accountability and Average Math Scores: Relating Multiple State Education Policy Attributes to Changes in Student Achievement in Procedural Knowledge, Conceptual Understanding and Problem Solving in Mathematics. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice 24(4): 5-18, 2005.

Desimone, L.: School and program evaluation. Encyclopedia of Education, 2nd Edition. J. Guthrie (eds.). New York: Macmillan, Page: 2030-2034, 2004.

Desimone, L., & LeFloch, K.: Are We Asking the Right Questions? Using Cognitive Interviews to Improve Surveys in Education Research Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 26(1): 1-22, 2004.

Desimone, L., Payne, B., Federovicious, N., Henrich, C. & Finn-Stevenson, M. Comprehensive School Reform: An Implementation Study Of Preschool Programs In Elementary Schools The Elementary School Journal 104(5): 387-407, 2004.

Smith, T., & Desimone, L.Do changes in patterns of participation in teachers’ professional development reflect the goals of standards-based reform? Educational Horizons 81(3): 119-129, 2003.

Desimone, L., Birman, Porter, A., Garet, M., & Suk Yoon, K. Improving Teachers’ In-Service Professional Development in Mathematics and Science: The Role of Postsecondary Institutions Educational Policy 17(5): 613-649, 2003.

Birman, B., Desimone, Garet, M., & Porter, A.: Designing professional development that works. Educational Leadership 57(8): 28-33, 2000.