Challenges regarding the attrition of candidates in teacher prep programs and teacher retention are well-documented, both at the local and national levels (TeachDE, TELL DE, All4ED.org). The problem is even more challenging in mathematics and other STEM disciplines. Data collected at monthly meetings of the Delaware Mathematics Coalition suggests that the teacher shortage in mathematics has reached crisis levels.
While the state has made considerable progress in building a more robust Teacher Academy Pathway in Delaware schools, data gathered from conversations with Department of Education leaders suggests that few if any of the students explicitly identify as future mathematics education majors. A more intentional and focused effort is needed to bolster the number of potential students who leave high school and pursue mathematics education in college.
Compounding the educator shortage challenge is the issue of teacher diversity. In 2020, Rodel released a report indicating that while 57% of the students in Delaware classrooms identified as students of color, only 17% of the workforce in Delaware schools are teachers of color. Research has shown that a more diverse teaching workforce supports improved student outcomes. As part of our equity-centered agenda, DMC leaders believe we can make a positive impact in addressing this challenge by more proactively identifying and eliciting the interest of students of color in pursuing mathematics education as their career path.
Capitalizing on the Power & Influence of Identified Math Marigolds: The Delaware Mathematics Coalition (DMC) has a history of building math leadership capacity and engaging teachers of mathematics in high quality content-focused professional learning. Data from the DMC’s mentoring induction initiative, Leadership Coaching Lab: Growing Math Marigolds Project showed that both novice and experienced mathematics teachers benefited from the program (Labware Report, 2019-2020). Teacher retention continues to be one of the systems level equity-centered priorities in the DMC’s strategic plan.
As part of the “Building a Stronger & More Inclusive Pathway to Math Education” pilot, DMC leaders will capitalize on the power and influence of a small set of identified Math Marigolds in Delaware districts with a goal of working together to explore ways to more purposefully bolster the number of future math educators in their high schools. Each Math Marigold will commit to the development of a draft plan for his or her high school. While there will be common elements across the school plans, we also anticipate there will be facets of the plan that will be unique to each setting. As part of the pilot, the teachers will identify, recruit, and meaningfully engage a cluster (2-5) of students (including students of color) in focused activities that are designed to positively impact their interest in becoming a mathematics educator. Data collection will include math autobiographies from the students, student interviews, surveys, and a trajectory of content-focused experiences that position the students to develop an appetite for teaching children mathematics. The experiences will also be designed to shed light on how to more purposefully plan and facilitate meaningful problem-based instruction for the wonderfully diverse students in our mathematics classrooms.
As part of the work, pilot leaders are committed to:
Developing deeper insights regarding the motivations and barriers that influence students’ interest in pursuing mathematics education.
Identifying a growing number of high school students who explicitly express an interest in pursuing mathematics teaching in college.
Collaborating around an identified trajectory of mathematics-focused experiences that meaningfully engage and bolster the number of high school students who commit to pursuing mathematics education in college.
Documenting what we are learning and sharing our findings with the broader community of invested stakeholders in the state.
Translating our understandings to positively impact other districts (and high schools) in Delaware.