- Year 2023
- NSF Noyce Award # 2050659
- First Name Gladis
- Last Name Kersaint
- Discipline Mathematics
University of Connecticut
Gladis Kersaint, University of Connecticut, Kari Baransky, Edison Middle School, William Mckinney, Engineering and Science University Magnet School
The need to improve the teaching and learning of mathematics across Connecticut is pressing. Connecticut, which is known for its strong commitment to education, is also known for the disparities that exist between its high-performing schools -often found in affluent communities- and low-performing schools, many of which are in communities with high levels of poverty and which serve populations that are majority students of color. In 2018-2019, 8th graders scoring at or above proficient in math were: 27% of students of color vs. 57% of White students, 3.4% of English language learners vs. 46% of non-ELLs, and 22% of students who receive free or reduced-price lunch vs. 59% for non free/reduced-price lunch (Source: EdSight.ct.gov). This project focuses on Connecticut’s Alliance Districts and specifically middle and high schools. Alliance Districts represent the 36 lowest-performing school districts in Connecticut. Collectively, they serve 42% of the state’s student population (over 200,000 students) and 63% of Connecticut’s students of color, 65% of its low-income students, and 76% of English learners. Teacher recruitment and retention is a significant issue facing all districts, particularly Alliance Districts. In Connecticut, the turnover rate at High-Poverty schools (54%) is over one and a half times that of Low-Poverty schools (35%). This turnover has many consequential impacts (Darling-Hammond, 2003), from organizational knowledge and institutional memory to relationships with families, to teaching and leadership capacity, as it takes many years to get to know a system, see its strengths and drawbacks, and implement change. An acute concern is the mentorship for new teachers. Systems with higher turnover tend to have fewer high-quality mentors – a challenge particularly severe in shortage areas like mathematics. Mentorship of new teachers is crucial for developing high-quality instruction, a sense of efficacy, and, ultimately, teacher retention (Smith & Ingersoll, 2004), which ultimately impacts school performance (Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). In addition to these impacts, with turnover, resources invested in recruitment, mentorship, and training are lost annually or potentially benefit students in neighboring, higher-paying districts if a teacher moves to a new district. With its large disparity in student educational outcomes by race, class, and language proficiency and higher turnover rates in high-poverty schools, Connecticut urgently needs to strengthen its secondary mathematics teaching and math teacher leadership in Alliance Districts. Such a growth-focused initiative, which must be long-term, will result in more robust classroom instruction, higher levels of student achievement, more professional growth opportunities for teachers, and lower departure rates.
As we share some of the work from the first year of the project, we focus on the following two questions: 1. What challenges and successes did we experience in recruiting, starting up, and implementing Year 1 of our CT Noyce Math Teacher Leaders program? 2. What evidence do we have of a positive impact on teachers’ learning and/or Noyce Fellow students’ experiences?
A major goal of this project is increased teacher leadership capacity. We draw on the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession (https://cstp-wa.org/) in conceptualizing teacher leadership and the competencies (knowledge, skills and dispositions) needed to be effective in teacher leadership roles. The CSTP framework highlights knowledge of content and pedagogy as a key area, which was the focus of our Year 1 work with our CT Noyce Math Teacher Leader (MLT) Fellows. Our approach combines summer coursework with year-long support, in the form of small collaborative learning group meetings (virtually held, 2x/month) where teachers share pedagogical dilemmas and classroom inquiry work. Using a protocol-guided discussion, the small group learns about and problem solves approaches to support the presenting teacher. In year 1, we focused on advancing pedagogy and content, and specifically, read and sought to implement the principles of Building Thinking Classrooms. We report here on teachers’ problems of practice and their discussions and challenges, offering insight into the nature of their pedagogical work. We also share results from a comprehensive teacher survey, implemented in May of each year, to describe the cohort’s initial views and beliefs about their impact and effectiveness as teachers and teacher leaders.
Selected teachers participate in foundational workshops, a 12-credit graduate Math Teacher Leader Certificate, and the Math Teacher Leadership Academy. The programming prepares them in content, pedagogy, leadership (including collaboration and mentorship), and equity. Anticipated outcomes of the project include: (1) 20 teachers who fulfill leadership roles advocating for and supporting equitable access to high-quality mathematics teaching and learning across Connecticut, (2) A set of high-quality, online module offerings to support additional math teachers’ learning, staffed by the Noyce Fellows, and administered through UConn, (3) An established graduate certificate program in Mathematics Teacher Leadership with demonstrated impact, (4) Strengthened communication and partnership among the Alliance districts, specifically with respect to mathematics education in their secondary schools, and among the CSDE, UConn, and Alliance Districts. To date, we have recruited 20 teachers who fulfill leadership roles advocating for and supporting equitable access to high-quality mathematics teaching and learning across Connecticut. Additional critical outcomes from Year 1 are the successful building of a community of practice among Noyce Fellows, where they use one another as resources to inquire into and address problems of practice in their settings. We also have documented the impact of their classroom-based inquiries on various student outcomes, such as engagement, enjoyment of class/mathematics, and interactions/communication during class.
What’s next: (1) A set of high-quality, online module offerings to support additional math teachers’ learning, staffed by the Noyce Fellows and administered through UConn, (2) An established graduate certificate program in Mathematics Teacher Leadership with demonstrated impact.
The MTL Program supports the retention of high-quality mathematics teachers by engaging them in a five-year program during which they remain in the classroom, as well as mentor others in the field. The program, situated in the Alliance Districts, has a direct impact on large numbers of minoritized students and students in high-poverty areas. The MTL Fellows’ mentorship of other in-service and preservice teachers provides crucial resources to new teachers to support their beginning years of teaching in high-needs districts. The MTL program builds capacity state-wide, with the establishment of new infrastructure to support systematic development of math teacher pedagogical skills and leadership through a graduate certificate program and/or online learning modules. As the program successfully develops teacher leaders in mathematics, school districts across Connecticut will benefit in the following ways: (1) Increased Professional Capacity – The training units developed for the purposes of this MTL program in mathematics will be made available online, including for other teachers in Alliance Districts. Connecticut mathematics teachers will be using learning modules developed and delivered by MTL Fellows. The development of an online community also will ensure that the program’s impact lasts beyond the funded project. (2) Expanded Systems and Infrastructure – School districts will have a larger pool of exceptional mathematics teachers who can provide coaching and mentoring for mathematics teachers in middle and high schools in Alliance Districts. The MTL Fellows will increase the state’s capacity to prepare pre- and in-service teachers in developing the skills needed to be effective math teachers in Alliance districts.