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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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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 121 Number 2, 2019, p. 1-36
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22554, Date Accessed: 9/20/2021 3:55:31 PM

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About the Author
  • William Zahner
    San Diego State University
    E-mail Author
    WILLIAM ZAHNER is an assistant professor of mathematics education in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and the associate director of the Center for Research in Mathematics and Science Education at San Diego State University. His research focuses on understanding principles for designing equitable mathematics classroom learning environments in diverse secondary classrooms. Zahner was formerly on the faculty in the School of Education at Boston University. Zahner’s published work has appeared in Learning and Instruction, Educational Studies in Mathematics, The Journal of Mathematical Behavior, and Mathematical Thinking and Learning.
  • Suzanne Chapin
    Boston University
    E-mail Author
    SUZANNE CHAPIN is professor of mathematics education at Boston University, where she teaches graduate-level courses and conducts research. Her work covers the areas of gifted education, curriculum design, teacher professional development in mathematics, and teacher and student discourse in mathematics. Dr. Chapin is principal investigator of the Elementary Mathematics Project, where she is involved in writing problem-based mathematics tasks and researching the effects of these tasks, in conjunction with discourse-based pedagogy, on elementary education majors’ knowledge of mathematics for teaching. Chapin is the author of multiple books and textbooks, including Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn and Math Matters: Understanding the Math You Teach Grades K–8 (both published by Math Solutions).
  • Rich Levine
    San Diego State University
    E-mail Author
    RICH LEVINE is professor of statistics and institutional research faculty advisor at San Diego State University. He is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association, with research interests in learning analytics and computationally intensive machine learning methods. He is currently working with his collaborators and students on applications of random forests in educational data mining settings. This work has recently been published in the Journal of Educational Data Mining, International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, and Technology, Knowledge, and Learning.
  • Lingjun He
    San Diego State University
    E-mail Author
    LINGJUN A. HE is a Ph.D. data scientist at the Analytic Research and Institutional Research Center and an adjunct faculty member in the Computational Science Research Center at San Diego State University. Her primary research interests include learning analytics, educational data mining, semiparametric mixed-effects modeling, and financial time series. Her work has appeared in publications such as International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education and Journal of Biological Chemistry.
  • Robert Afonso
    Boston University
    E-mail Author
    ROBERT AFONSO is a doctoral student in mathematics education at Boston University. He currently teaches middle school mathematics in Rhode Island. In addition to studying the career trajectories of secondary mathematics teachers, Afonso has contributed to research on the development of curriculum materials for mathematics courses for prospective elementary teachers.
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