Examining the Recruitment, Placement, and Career Trajectories of Secondary Mathematics Teachers Prepared for High-Need Schools
by William Zahner, Suzanne Chapin, Rich Levine, Lingjun A. He & Robert Afonso — 2019
Background: School leaders are challenged by the relatively limited supply and high turnover of qualified secondary school mathematics teachers. In response, policy makers and teacher educators have developed various pathways and incentives to recruit, train, place, and support highly qualified mathematics teachers to work in hard-to-staff schools.
Focus of Study: In this study, we investigate the recruitment, placement, and early career trajectories of 158 Grades 6–12 mathematics teachers from two preparation programs focused on staffing “high-need” schools in the same region.
Setting: The contrasting programs were both supported by the same university in the Northeast United States.
Participants & Programs: The participants were 158 secondary school (Grades 6–12) mathematics teachers. Of these, 48 were recruited and prepared through a teacher education program with financial support from the National Science Foundation-funded Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. The other 110 school mathematics teachers were recruited and trained through the Greater Boston office of Teach For America. Both programs required two years of service in high-need schools.
Research Design: In this study, we used a comparative design. Descriptive profiles of teachers from each program were created. Then, participants’ early career trajectories were compared using logistic regression and survival analysis.
Data Collection and Analysis: We administered a longitudinal survey and created a database combining survey data and each program’s administrative data.
Findings/Results: The Noyce scholarship-supported pathway successfully recruited individuals with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors, trained them to be mathematics teachers, and placed those individuals as secondary mathematics teachers in high-need schools. The TFA-recruited secondary school mathematics teachers were less likely to have STEM majors than their counterparts in the scholarship pathway, and their attrition rate after completing their service requirement was higher than that of the scholarship-supported teachers. However, TFA recruited a more diverse pool of potential teachers and placed these teachers in schools serving a higher proportion of low-socioeconomic-status students.
Conclusions and Recommendations: This comparison highlights how each program’s design likely attracted prospective teachers who had different long-term career goals before they entered their preparation pathway. The results suggest that policymakers who seek to address staffing shortages in secondary mathematics must balance recruitment criteria, school working conditions, and prospective teachers’ career goals while designing pathways to recruit qualified mathematics teachers for hard-to-staff schools.
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