Laura M. Desimone


Education Policy Division

Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania

Phone: 215-746-5699


Professional Biography

Dr. Desimone has been on the faculty since 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.

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. She uses multiple methods, including surveys, interviews, classroom observations, and randomized control trials, to study all levels of the policy system (national, state, district, school, and classroom). Much of her work has focused on school reform initiatives, standards-based 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, Teachers College Record, and Educational Researcher and is currently on the editorial board for the American Education Research Journal.

Current Research Projects. Dr. Desimone is co-director of the $10 million five-year Center for Standards, Assessments, Instruction, and Learning (, 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 also works with the School District of Philadelphia through Shared Solutions, a research-to-practice partnership between the School District of Philadelphia and Penn GSE. Research with the school district has included co-developing surveys for administration district-wide and a mixed method study of the district’s school improvement efforts. Current work involves studying school transformation efforts.

Selected Publications

Smith, T., Neergard, L., Hochberg, E., & Desimone, L. (in press). Organizational effects on teacher quality. Teachers College Record.

Desimone, L.M., & Pak, K. (2017). Instructional coaching as high-quality professional development. Theory Into Practice, 56(1), 3-12.

Desimone, L., & Hill, K. (2017). Inside the black box: Examining mediators and moderators of a middle school science intervention. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 39(3), 511-536.

Covay Minor, E., Desimone, L.M., Caines, J., & Hochberg, E. (2016). Insights on how to shape teacher learning policy: The role of teacher content knowledge in explaining differential effects of professional development. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 24(38). 

Desimone, L., McMaken, J., & Hochberg, E. (2016). Teacher knowledge and instruction in beginning teaching: How do they grow and how are they linked? Teachers College Record, 118(5), 1-54.

Desimone, L., Wolford, T., & Hill, K. (October-December 2016). Research-practice: A practical conceptual framework. AERA Open, 2(4), 1-14.

Desimone, L.M., & Garet, M.S. (2015). Best practices in teacher’s professional development in the United States. Psychology, Society, & Education, 7(3), 252-263.

Invited manuscript to appear in special issue of Psychology, Society, and Education, an international, peer-reviewed open access journal published by the Association for the Advancement of Psychology and Education (AAPE). One author from each of five countries (Australia, Finland, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the U.S.) was invited to contribute to a special issue on Teacher Learning and Professional Development; Dr. Desimone was asked to represent the United States.

Covay, E., Desimone, L., Phillips, K., & Spencer, K. (2015). A new look at the opportunity to learn gap across race and income. American Journal of Education, 12(2).

Polikoff, M.S., Desimone, L.M., Hochberg, E.D., & Porter, A.C. (2015). Mentor policy and the quality of mentoring. Elementary School Journal, 116(1), 76-102.

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 Education65(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 Record115(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. (2011). Teacher participation in content-focused professional development and the role of state policyTeachers College Record, 113(1), 2011.

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

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

Desimone, L. & Long, D. (2010). 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), 3024-3073.

Desimone, L.M., Long, D., & Fang, M. (2010). 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).

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

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

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

Desimone, L. (2008). Whole-school change. In M. Shinn & H. Yoshikawa (eds.). Toward Positive Youth Development: Transforming Schools and Community Programs. New York: Oxford University Press.

Desimone, L., Smith, T., & Frisvold, D. (2007). Has NCLB improved teacher and teaching quality for disadvantaged students? In A. Gamoran (ed.). Standards-Based Reform and the Poverty Gap. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution.

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

Desimone, L.M., Smith, T.S., & Rowley, K. (2007). Does policy influence mathematics and science teachers’ participation in professional development? Teachers College Record, 109(5), 1086-1122.

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

Desimone, L. (2006). Consider the source: Response differences among teachers, principals and districts on survey questions about their education policy environment. Educational Policy, 20(4), 640-676.

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

Desimone, L., Smith, T., Baker, D., & Ueno, K. (2005). The distribution of teaching quality in mathematics: Assessing barriers to the reform of United States mathematics instruction from an international perspectiveAmerican Educational Research Journal, 42(3), 501-535.

Smith, T., Desimone, L., & Ueno, K. (2005). “Highly qualified" to do what? The relationship between NCLB teacher quality mandates and the use of reform-oriented instruction in middle school mathematics. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 27(1), 75-109.

Desimone, L.M., Smith, T.S., Hayes, S., & Frisvold, D. (2005). 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 mathematicsEducational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 24(4), 5-18.

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

Desimone, L., & LeFloch, K. (2004). Are we asking the right questions? Using cognitive interviews to improve surveys in education researchEducational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 26(1), 1-22.

Desimone, L., Payne, B., Federovicious, N., Henrich, C., & Finn-Stevenson, M. (2004). Comprehensive School Reform: An implementation study of preschool programs in elementary schools. The Elementary School Journal, 104(5), 387-407.

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

Desimone, L., Birman, Porter, A., Garet, M., & Suk Yoon, K. (2003). Improving teachers’ in-service professional development in mathematics and science: The role of postsecondary institutions. Educational Policy, 17(5), 613-649.

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