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Secondary Teacher Retention & Induction in Diverse Educational Settings RAC

  • Aim Statements
    • Attract and maintain an adequate supply of secondary mathematics teacher candidates
    • Purposeful and sustained marketing plan and effort to attract a diverse population of teacher candidates and counter the negative narrative about teaching
    • Address needs of different institutions and programs
    • Marketing sensitive to diverse audiences Investigate how to retain those we recruit with strong potential for teaching secondary mathematics
  • General Approach
    • Provide models for developing and launching purposeful and sustained marketing campaigns that re-brand teaching to appeal to STEM majors
    • Include adaptions for programs focusing on undergraduates, UTeach, alternative pathways, and other models
    • Identify critical experiences in mathematics and clinical work that impact recruitment and retention

  • Measures Used
    • Annual number of graduates reported to SMTI
    • Number individual initiated inquiries about mathematics teaching (by email, phone, walk-in, etc.) monitored continuously through form and aggregated monthly
    • Annual data summary on diversity that includes race, ethnicity, and gender
    • Number of individuals who declare an appropriate SMTP major aggregated monthly
    • Number of individuals who apply for admission to an SMTP aggregated each semester

Problem Addressed

Guiding Principle 8: Student Recruitment, Selection, and Support

The  teacher  preparation  program  actively  recruits  high‐quality  and  diverse  teacher candidates  into  the  program,  and  monitors  and  supports  their  success  in  completing  the program.

Since the inception of MTE-P, the national problem of retaining secondary mathematics teachers within the profession has been a priority. A RAC on retention was proposed at the 2013 Conference, but not implemented because recruitment was determined to be a higher priority at the time.  From review of the earlier White Paper, the previous RAC proposal, and more recent literature on retention, the driver diagram below is proposed with an aim statement and drivers that include support for early career teachers, PLCs, and the need to examine school structures and professional pathways.

Who We Are

Auburn University: Gary Martin

California State University: Nancy Barker, Eric Hsu, James Martinez (co-leader), Fred Uy

East Central Texas: Laura Wilding, Jennifer Whitfield

Georgia State University: Pier Junor Clarke

South Dakota: Nicol Reiner, Jami Stone

Trellis Education: Megan W. Taylor (co-leader)

University of Cincinatti: Bob Ranau

University of Kentucky: Lisa Amick (co-leader), Craig Schroeder

University of South Carolina: Ed Dickey (initial organizer)

Current Progress

After a recent survey of partnership members, a significant interest in teacher retention and induction was assessed, so a working group made up of partners expressing a strong interest in the topic was formed. The working group reviewed prior literature and recommendations to analyze the retention problem in the context of Secondary Mathematics Teachers, to understand the current problem space, and devise a new driver diagram.

From the driver diagram, a research question was selected, “What is the perceived scope, nature and impact of professional support for early career mathematics teachers, and how does this (a) change as teachers progress in their teaching career and (b) relate to how likely it is a teacher will remain teaching?” With this question in mind, researchers from thirteen institutions nationwide and secondary mathematics teachers from four school districts, all part of the MTE-P, designed a pilot survey called “Reflection on Professional Activities.” This survey was created through an iterative design and vetting process that extended from the fall of 2014 throughout early 2016. The survey stemmed from a discussion centered on research based reasons that teachers leave the field. A brainstorming session followed the discussion, clustering those reasons into categories, and those categories eventually became the main components of the survey (professional activities, support, job satisfaction, etc.). This survey was edited numerous times during face to face discussions of the research group, virtual meetings, and finally feedback from early career teachers who will soon be completing the survey. The current data collection tool is a 20-item survey asking participants – secondary mathematics teachers in their first, second, or third year of teaching – to reflect on the degree to which the professional learning activities and communities they participate in (e.g., working with a mentor, attending a professional conference, being a Noyce Scholar) increases their enthusiasm for teaching mathematics and influences their ability to facilitate student learning. Additionally, participants are asked to describe the role of administrators, universities, and school structures (e.g., teaching load) on these self-reports, and their satisfaction with teaching and likelihood to continue teaching. The survey was recently distributed nationwide in March of 2016 to begin the pilot study. Changes and refinements will continue to be made after the first round of preliminary data is collected to improve the quality and functionality of the survey.

In order to better understand the degree to which early-career mathematics teachers are being supported by: 1) professional development, 2) professional learning communities and 3) administrators, the survey allows participants to specify activities that have helped them grow professionally, and the degree to which these activities were worthwhile to them. Additionally, since the survey is longitudinal, responses can be measured over time, allowing the researchers to understand how these teachers are supported throughout their early service (preservice, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd) years. This measure will allow for correlations to be explored regarding the level of professional support these teachers receive based on years of teaching experience. Also, instructional context (i.e. public, private, etc.) data will be collected, as well as whether the early service teachers have students from special populations (i.e. special education, English Language Learner, gifted) in their classrooms. Surveyed early-career teachers will provide data regarding the level of support they receive from a range of professional learning communities (PLCs), including on- and off-site groups, professional organizations (e.g. NCTM), and on-line groups. Participant estimations regarding the degree that specific professional development activities changed these teachers’ practices, as well as the level of “inspiration” these activities invoked, will be surveyed, allowing researchers to discern connections between these two measures. Qualitative responses are provided in the survey which allows survey participants to provide additional details regarding their most meaningful PLCs. Finally, the degree that the participants feel that their administrators support them professionally is measured, including specific areas (e.g. assessment, instruction, curriculum, classroom management, collegial collaboration and course assignments/loads). The survey ends with an estimation of: 1) their overall level of satisfaction in their teaching, 2) whether they would choose the profession again knowing what they have learned so far, and 3) how long they plan to remain in the teaching profession.

Opportunities for Engagement

In spring 2016, each, current member of the STRIDES RAC sent the pilot survey to a few, select early career teachers, with a solicitation to complete it twice: March and June. This pilot data will be analyzed by the STRIDES RAC working group in the summer annual meeting to (a) iterate the survey for longitudinal use, (b) make initial hypotheses about the kinds of professional learning activities early service teachers in our partnership are engaging in and and the impact of these activities on their practice, and (c) design initial interventions to launch in fall 2016. It is the goal of the STRIDES RAC to assure that, by July 1, 2022 at least 85% of the program’s early-service teachers employed in partner school districts begin a third year of employment as mathematics educators. With this goal in mind, it is imperative that data from the STRIDES survey be used to design interventions that support the development of pathways for teachers to enter and thrive in the teaching profession. These pathways will be locally defined by MTE-P schools and their district offices which will support early career teachers in their professional growth. For example, one pathway may provide access to a variety of roles for teachers in the program to provide professional growth opportunities at their schools, reducing the possibility of early departure. The intent is that all prescribed interventions follow a PDSA (i.e. Plan, Do, Study, Act) cycle, so that measures are recursively re-defined to better suit individual early-career teacher needs. Future ramifications of implementing STRIDES interventions to support the program’s early-career teachers include: 1) establishment of a Network Improvement Community (NIC) model for collaboration-based support of mathematics teachers, 2) documentation of PDSA cycle effectiveness for specific support pathways, and 3) the development of a specific data-gathering instrument for researchers to use/modify for future studies.