- Year 2016
- NSF Noyce Award # 1136432
- First Name Deborah
- Last Name Nolan
- Discipline Mathematics, Science
George Johnson, UC Berkeley, firstname.lastname@example.org
Katherine Reid, UC Berkeley; email@example.com
Research shows that the quality of the teacher is the most important factor within the control of schools that contributes directly to pupil learning and achievement However, extensive research has not only documented a severe shortage of secondary mathematics and science teachers across the nation, but has also shown that high quality teachers are disproportionally found in wealthy suburban schools compared to poor urban schools.
Some researchers argue that the shortage of high quality teachers in poor urban schools is not a supply problem, but a retention problem. While higher education institutions alone cannot address retention, they can improve it through mechanisms such as: (1) providing early and extensive opportunities for teacher candidates to work in urban classrooms; (2) continuing the strong support for graduates of the program during the critical beginning and induction years; and (3) building an extensive network of professional communities among teacher candidates, between teacher candidates and graduates of the program, and between higher education institutions and K-12 teachers, schools, and school districts. This is where M?A Berkeley seeks to play a key role in developing master teachers who will become the leaders to help resolve the retention problem that local schools now face.
The MfA Berkeley Master Teacher Fellowship Program provides professional development opportunities in order that participants may become effective mentors, coaches, professional development facilitators and instructional leaders within their schools and districts. A key component of the program is development of a professional community that serves as a source of renewal and enrichment; outstanding teachers inspire and motivate one another. Participants learn from each other, share ideas and expect excellence from their colleagues and themselves.
The fellowship program begins with fellows engaging in teacher inquiry through Project IMPACT throughout Year One. Fellows form a professional learning community and engage in teacher inquiry, which among other things fosters a collegial spirit while critically examining classroom practice. During the following summer fellows participate in summer research experiences in STEM and STEM education labs. This research experience provides an opportunity for fellows to enrich their content knowledge and in turn incorporate aspects of their experiences into lesson plans appropriate for their own classrooms.
During Year Two, fellows are supported as they pursue National Board Certification. As they prepared their portfolios, fellows attended monthly meetings at the National Board Resource Center at Stanford University. Fellows who have already achieved National Board Certification develop and implement a professional development plan for the year in preparation for a more extensive professional development proposal in year three.
In Year 3, fellows participate as a Teacher-in-Residence (TIR) at UC Berkeley where they work with faculty in their discipline and in education to create their own professional and leadership development program tailored to their needs and interests. There are a variety of opportunities available at UC Berkeley, including enrolling in upper division and graduate-level courses in math, science and/or education, participating in the Cal Teach program as a co-instructor or field supervisor and joining research groups in the Graduate School of Education.
During the last two years of the program, fellows receive guidance and support in organizing their own workshops and professional learning communities within their schools and districts. In addition, fellows become active participants in their district’s induction program for new teachers, and present their research findings at local, state, and/or national conferences.
The MfA Berkeley Master Teacher Fellowship Program is built on a conceptual framework of teacher-leaders that involves three dimensions of master teaching: teaching expertise and classroom accomplishment, mentoring expertise and contributions to colleagues, and leadership and school improvement capacity. The program was developed to address two critical problems: teacher quality and teacher retention in the fields of math and science in secondary urban public schools.
To promote the development of teacher-leaders, MfA Berkeley provides a structured five-year professional development environment within which promising local math and science teachers can strengthen their disciplinary effectiveness, gain important leadership training and experience, and form a professional community of educators. The program is designed to promote teacher leadership by empowering teachers to be intellectually engaged in their own teaching practice.
Findings from our 2015 evaluation study suggest that the MfA Berkeley Master Teacher Fellowship Program is largely effective in achieving its main goals of enhancing teacher quality and teacher retention in the fields of math and science in secondary urban public schools. The effects of the program are both direct and indirect, leading to shifts in fellows’ roles and activities, as well as changes in their knowledge, perspectives, and practices – both as teachers and educational leaders.
Consistent with program theory, findings demonstrate that fellows begin with extensive examination and refinement of their classroom practice, then gradually expand and enhance their impact as leaders in school and district-wide roles. Teacher growth is facilitated through ongoing connection to new resources, workshops, opportunities, and collaboration with a rich network of experienced and motivated educators. Furthermore, program elements and activities that continually promote the refinement of classroom practice have resulted in observed improvements in student learning, motivation, and engagement.
The majority of fellows report that the MfA Berkeley program has been effective or very effective in supporting their development as teachers and helping them to maintain an interest in teaching. In contrast to the negative discourse, mistrust, and controversy that increasingly characterizes public education, fellows appreciate that their efforts are being recognized and honored by the MfAprogram. In this way, the positive support and resources provided by M?A have served to solidify fellows’ commitment to public education, as well as heighten their engagement in leadership roles that promote educational quality and equity in local schools and districts.
Math for America Berkeley is committed to equity in education for every student, promoting broad educational progress through mathematics and science learning. The MfA Berkeley Master Teacher Fellowship Program will allow us to help develop the leadership capacity of outstanding teachers who share this commitment, with the goal of developing a close group of teacher leaders in our urban schools. The MfA-Berkeley program has a focus on teaching in urban schools that are often under-served. In doing so, we articulate our beliefs that every student has (1) the capacity to learn both introductory and advanced mathematics and science, (2) the right to a quality education that supports their learning, and (3) the need for literacy in mathematics, science and technology so that they have access to every opportunity that society can provide.