About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2015 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 4597-4604
ISBN: 978-84-606-5763-7
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 9th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 2-4 March, 2015
Location: Madrid, Spain
The National Plan for Quality and Merit (from now on PQM) is an Italian in-service training program which aims to provide lower secondary school teachers some innovative teaching materials in order to enhance student achievement in Maths and Italian language. It is a complex project managed by the Ministry of Education, the National Institute for Documentation Innovation and Educational Research (INDIRE) and the National Institute for Educational Evaluation (INVALSI) and is addressed to lower secondary schools of the regions included in the PON funding: Campania, Sicily, Calabria and Apulia.

Started in the school year 2009-2010 as a pilot project, it became an experimentation project for the triennium 2010-2013 and it has been the first initiative involving INDIRE and INVALSI as two important institutions members of the Italian National Evaluation System.

PQM is not intended to be a traditional content-focused training program but a specific training path focused on developing teachers knowledge and skills concerning:
1) student assessment and evaluation and the use of diagnosis instruments (didactic analysis of standard tests and students results, designing and application of tools for special assessment situation such as students with special needs, cooperative learning, cross-curricular teaching, key competence approach)
2) identifying strategic improvement goals, planning and implementation of improvement activities; designing innovative didactic materials based on laboratory and key competences approach and/or with the introduction of ICT;
3) collaborative and cross-curricular teaching planning, peer education, process documentation.

The teachers participating in the project are included in networks of five schools coordinated by a tutor, who provides them, along the school year, both formal and online training.

The training has two main goals:
1) help teachers to set up an Improvement Plan (Piano di Miglioramento from now on PdM) based on student results in standardized test prepared by INVALSI and administered at the beginning of school year;
2) provide teachers alternative solutions to teach the usual curricular contents.

The diagnosis phase is the most important moment of the training because it is essential for the definition of the strategic improvement goals and the drafting of the Improvement Plan. For the implementation of the Plan, teachers could choose within the following activities concerning:
- remedial classes outside the regular school time (15 hours each) with small groups of students;
- producing new didactic materials;
- opportunities for sharing innovative teaching materials with other colleagues in the school in a sort of community of practice.

At the end of the school year, students are tested a second time and the results are used as check of the activities of the current year and as starting point for the drafting of the PdM for the following year.

Referring to the theoretical framework of School Improvement and Effectiveness (Scheerens 2000, Scheerens, Mosca, Bolletta, 2011; Creemers and Kyriakides, 2012; Reezigt, Creemers 2005; Allulli, 2011), our research question concerns two specific aims:
1) Evaluate the improvement in student Maths and Italian language achievement in the triennium of experimentation in order to assess the effectiveness of PQM project;
2) Analyzing, at a perceived level, changes in teachers practices and quality and efficacy of training actions, methods and materials.
School improvement, school effectiveness.