Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition
Mathematics Specialist Task Force Report
In the fall of 2002 the Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition (VMSC) board directed that a task force be established to prepare a case and to write a report to present to LEAs, DOE, BOE and policy makers as to how a teacher specialist will improve student learning. Consideration is to be given to mathematics specialist and science specialist at both the elementary and middle school level. This report should include but is not limited to job description, competencies, preparation, and licensure.
Task Force Members
|Vickie Inge, Chair||
Loren Pitt, VMSC Liaison
|Mathematics Coordinator||President VMSC|
|Stafford County Schools||Mathematics Professor University of Virginia|
|Curriculum Specialist for Mathematics||Assistant Professor Mathematics Education|
|Alexandria City Schools||
|President VCMS||Mathematics Supervisor|
|Director of Instruction||Arlington City Schools|
|Mathematics Coordinator||Director of Mathematics, Science and Technology|
|Fairfax County Schools||Hopewell City Schools|
|President VCTM||Science Content Specialist and Virginia Co-director|
|Mathematics Supervisor||Coalfield Rural Systemic Initiative|
|Spotsylvania County Schools||Russell County Public Schools|
|President VSELA||Mathematics Coordinator|
|Augusta County Schools||Roanoke City Schools|
|President-Elect VCTM||Mathematics Coordinator|
|Mathematics Specialist||Norfolk City Schools|
|Mathematics Supervisor||Assistant Professor Mathematics Education|
|Montgomery County Schools||Virginia Tech|
|Assistant Professor Mathematics Education||Professor of Mathematics|
|Portsmouth City Schools|
Over the last decade several compelling studies and reports have identified the strong connection between student achievement and the quality of teacher knowledge and skills (Wenglinsky, 2002; Public Agenda, 2000; Kain, 1998 ). Furthermore, Sanders and Rivers (1996) as well as Monk and King (1994) found that low-achieving students made significantly greater performance gains when assigned to effective teachers.
The National Research Council’s report, Educating Teachers of Science, Mathematics, and Technology informs us that, “the kind and quality of teachers’ inservice education can make a difference in how their students achieve” (p. 63). Richard Elmore (2002) reports that professional development focused on student learning must be tailored to address the difficulties encountered by real students in real classrooms. School based mathematics specialists will allow elementary and middle level teachers to benefit from site-based and in-depth learning experiences which are close to classroom practice and that are ongoing and reflective. (WestEd, 2000)
Efforts to support Teacher Specialist Programs are taking root across
We believe any efforts aimed at improving instruction require a departure in some degree from current practice. Implementation of these efforts requires teachers to learn new knowledge, skills, and practices as well as increasing their capacity to use more effectively what they already know and can do (Cohen & Ball, 2001). Research informs us that teacher knowledge profoundly affects student achievement. Students perform better when they are able to learn from teachers who have a deep understanding of the mathematics they are teaching and who also are knowledgeable about improved ways to teach (National Research Council, 2000). In today’s high stakes education climate students who are not taught by highly qualified teachers may be penalized. For example, they may be held back or not allowed to graduate. We need more highly qualified teachers but instead, what we are faced with is a scarcity of teachers who possess a profound understanding of the mathematics they teach. Today this issue is so critical that the goal of having highly qualified teachers in all classrooms is mandated in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Federal education act.
To help teachers improve instruction and become increasingly expert we must recognize teaching as a lifelong journey of learning rather than a final destination of “knowing” how to teach (Darling-Hammond, 2000). We must ensure that teachers have the necessary support as they move through the continual changes encountered on their journey. From our interviews and observations we have learned that a variety of strategies are underway across the Commonwealth to improve instruction in mathematics. The common element among all of these interventions is that classroom teachers must make changes in their instructional programs and practices. In
Effective mathematics teaching is complex, requiring both a broad base and a special content knowledge for successful instruction. The 2000 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education conducted by Horizon Research Inc. for the National Science Foundation reported that only 60 percent of the elementary teachers in their survey felt qualified to teach mathematics. Based on our surveys and interviews with school division personnel
To address these issues, the Virginia Department of Education as well as school divisions in
Evolution of the Lead Teacher Program in
The concept of a content teacher specialist is not a new concept in
A 1997 report by Pitt and Critchfield documented the variety and effectiveness of lead teacher programs in nine representative
In March 2002 a survey of 43
Further analysis of the surveys revealed that twenty-three different titles are used to designate the state's mathematics lead teachers. The primary responsibility of these leaders was to serve as liaisons between the school boards’ central offices and the school sites. The surveys indicated a critical need for the mathematics teacher leaders to take a more active role in providing staff development for teachers and leadership for the building level mathematics program. However, from these surveys we learned that a number of barriers stand in the way. Teacher leaders need a deeper understanding of the mathematics content being taught. In addition, teacher leaders need more knowledge about mathematics content pedagogy (how both students and adults learn to make sense of mathematics) and they need to develop leadership skills as well as skills to facilitate adult learners.
On May 20, 2002 the Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition, the Virginia Council of Mathematics Supervisors, and the Virginia Council of Teachers of Mathematics with support from ExxonMobil Education Foundation hosted a forum, “Moving from Teacher Leaders to Mathematics Teacher Specialists”, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. At this time representatives from school divisions across
Rationale for Mathematics Specialist
Rising Expectations for Students
Accountability weighs in, as students must pass prescribed numbers of end-of-course tests depending upon the type of diploma they are seeking. Each year greater numbers of students are passing the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) assessments. However, many children across the Commonwealth are still not passing these assessments and are at risk of not graduating from high school. Most troubling are the results of tests at the elementary and middle school level. An examination of the 2002 SOL test results posted on the Virginia Department of Education web site reveals that 20% of the state’s third graders, 29% of the state’s fifth graders, and 29% of the state’s eighth graders did not pass the 2002 SOL grade level tests in mathematics.
The disaggregated data from the 2002 SOL reveal that across the state there are gaps between the percent of white students passing the tests and the percent of the subpopulations who passed the tests. This can be illustrated by looking at a few of the smallest gaps. In mathematics at grade three there is a 22 point gap between the white and black populations and a 29 point gap between the white population and the disabled population. We see similar differences between the white population and the LEP population as well as the Hispanic population.
While concerned with the numbers of students not passing and with the gaps between populations, we are just as concerned that more students are not passing at the advanced proficient level. It is important to note these tests set forth minimal expectations for students.
There is a pressing need for schools across
A number of national reports have begun to call for the placement of mathematics specialists in elementary schools. These reports (The Mathematical Education of Teachers, 2001; Adding It Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics, 2001; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Principles and Standards of School Mathematics, 2000; Keys to Math Success: A Report from the Maryland Mathematics Commission, 2001) have converged around this common idea. Each report calls for a qualified mathematics specialists to be placed in schools as a resource for improving instruction. We believe that school based specialists will serve as a resource in professional development, teaching, curriculum development and implementation, mentoring new teachers, and parent and community education.
Teachers and ultimately students in
Role of the School Based Specialist
Teacher learning is a catalyst for school reform and improvement in teaching and learning. As shown in this report, staff development efforts are unlikely to be either effective or enduring without carefully considering provisions to support the growth of teachers’ understanding of their practices. Improvement in student learning is not as simple as teaching teachers how to teach differently but requires actually working in classrooms in such a way that teachers in the process of changing their practice are continuously supported. Teachers, with support from a building level content specialist, can develop strong expertise in the teaching and the learning of mathematics and science (Elmore, 2002). A specialist is a teacher whose interest and special preparation in mathematics content and pedagogy are matched with special teaching or leadership assignments to support teaching and learning (Reys & Fennell, 2003, p. 280).
Building level administrators seldom have the time or the expertise in mathematics to lead the changes to improve instruction in this area. The NCTM Principles and Standards of School Mathematics states (2000, p.375): “There is an urgent and growing need for mathematics teacher leaders specialists positioned between classroom teachers and administrators who can assist with the improvement of mathematics education.” Teacher specialists in
Adam Gamoran and colleagues (2002) used information from a multiyear study conducted by the
Franke, Kazemi, Shih, and Biagetti (1998) found that professional development was more effective in helping teachers make significant changes in their practice if teachers were able to reflect on their own students and practice rather than hypothetical students and situations. Furthermore, Fennema, Carpenter, Franke, Levi, Jacobs, and Empson (1996) in their work with teachers implementing Cognitively Guided Instruction found that site-based support was paramount in facilitating changes in teachers’ beliefs, knowledge, and instructional practice - changes that were found to ultimately enhance student achievement. The Task Force believes that school based specialists in mathematics teaching and learning can fill the role of experts in teaching and learning and that their work can be distributed within a number of different models.
We have learned through interviews and surveys that within the past two years several school divisions in
In Stafford County full time mathematics specialists have been placed in five elementary schools to co-teach classes, to provide site-based and job-embedded professional development to teachers and paraprofessionals, to coach first and second year teachers, to analyze student assessment data to inform instructional planning, and to provide parent education programs.
For the past eleven years
Eleven Title I schools and one targeted assistance Title I school in
As shown in the examples above consensus continues to grow across
Recommended School-based Mathematics Specialist Responsibilities:
The Context for Learning
Teachers in a program leading to an endorsement as a mathematics specialist need to be in an environment where they can work collaboratively, feel free to make mistakes and learn from them; and they need challenging mathematics content, which at the same time is related to school mathematics. Typically, higher education mathematics departments do not offer the kinds of courses that would be appropriate for these teachers. It is crucial that the faculty in the college of arts and sciences and the faculty in the education department collaborate with school divisions to plan and deliver programs to prepare school based mathematics specialists. Schools of education should look for ways to “reinforce and integrate learning, rather than maintaining artificial barriers between courses in content and pedagogy (National Research Council, 2000).
The Task Force believes it is important that specialists develop a broad range of vision about the mathematics curriculum, student learning, and teaching. Mathematics specialists need to learn significant mathematics in situations where good mathematical content pedagogy is modeled. They must increase their content knowledge as well as deepening their knowledge of both school mathematics content and content pedagogical issues based on current research in mathematics teaching and learning. School based specialists will provide leadership in a variety of ways and must have the opportunity to strengthen their own leadership skills, to develop facilitation skills for adult learning, and to become effective change agents. The Task Force recommends that mathematics specialists demonstrate the following competencies.
Recommended Competencies for Mathematics Specialists:
The Task Force reviewed the possible role and responsibilities that a specialist in
Recommendations for Mathematics Specialists Preparation Programs
Not only must mathematics specialist have mathematics content knowledge but also a conceptual understanding of the principles underlying its topics, rules, and definitions (National Research Council, 2000). In addition, they must have pedagogical content knowledge to include but is not limited to useful representations, unifying ideas, clarifying examples and counter examples, helpful analogies, important relationships, and connections among ideas. Pedagogical content knowledge is a subset of content knowledge that has particular utility for planning and conducting lessons that facilitate student learning (Shulman, 1986).
Teachers preparing to be mathematics specialists must have the opportunity to take classes that include content in number and operations, functions and algebra, geometry and measurement, and data analysis, statistics, and probability. Technology as a tool for teaching and learning should be integrated into coursework as appropriate. Furthermore, these classes should incorporate the five processes: becoming mathematical problem solvers, reasoning mathematically, communicating mathematically, making mathematical connections, and using mathematical representations. Classes must be relevant to the work of mathematics specialists, allowing them to develop a deep understanding of the mathematics content. Instructors must model effective content pedagogy and allow specialists the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to implement effective teaching practices in their school. The key aspect is to verify that teachers can transfer what they have learned in the college setting to their work as a specialist.
To build leadership skills courses must be offered that will enable candidates to build a deep understanding of how students learn mathematics and of pedagogical knowledge specific to mathematics teaching and learning. Candidates will learn to develop curriculum based on current research including national and state standards for mathematics and will design instruction that meets the needs of diverse learners.
Coursework will enable candidates for a mathematics specialist endorsement to develop skills in analyzing individual student performance on a variety of assessment protocols and in analyzing and interpreting individual as well as collective test data. They will use the results from this analysis to inform instructional decisions. In addition, candidates will learn to gather and interpret relevant data about instructional strategies and instructional programs to facilitate improvements in student learning.
Programs preparing mathematics specialists will include the opportunity for candidates to develop skills in planning, implementing, and evaluating job-embedded support and staff development for all teachers including the mentoring of new teachers. This preparation will also help teachers develop effective communication skills to share researched based knowledge and skills with administrators, parents, and the greater community.
Recommendation for Mathematics Teacher Specialist Licensure
How do we ensure that mathematics receives equal attention in the elementary and middle school curriculum and in teacher’s instructional programs as reading or literacy currently receives? This Task Force strongly believes the foundation for student success in both reading and mathematics begins in kindergarten and then must be nurtured throughout elementary and middle school.
Ball, D.L. & Cohen, D.K. (1999). Developing practice, developing practitioners: Toward a practice-based theory of professional education. In L. Darling-Hammond & G. Sykes (Eds.), Teaching as the learning profession: Handbook of policy and practice (3-32).
Ball, D. (2003, February) Mathematics in the 21st. Century: What Mathematical Knowledge is Needed for Teaching Mathematics. Paper presented at the Secretary’s Mathematics Summit in
Cage, T (2000). Special results from a special class. The Lamp. http://www.exxonmobil.com/news/publications/c_winter01_lamp/c_page9.html
Bastable, V. and L. Menster (2003). “Designing Professional Development Activities for Math Specialist”. Paper presented at SummerMath for Teachers at
Borasi, R. and Fonzi, J. (2002). Professional Development That
Bruni, J. A. (1991) We must have “designated math leaders” in the elementary school! The Arithmetic Teacher, 39 (1) 7-9.
Cohen, D.K. and Ball, D. (2001) “Making change: Instruction and its improvement. Phi Delta Kappan, (), 9 73-77.
Conference Board of Mathematical Sciences. (2001) The Mathematics Education of Teachers.
Critchfield, S. & Pitt, L. (1997) Mathematics and science lead teachers in
Darling-Hammond, L. (presentation to WestEd Board of Directors March 2000)
Dossey, JA. (1984) “One point of view: elementary school mathematics specialists: where are they?” The Arithmetic Teacher 32 (3), 3,50.
Elmore, R. F. (2002) Bridging the gap between standards and achievement: The imperative for professional development education. Albert Shanker Institute.
Gamoran, A., Anderson, C.W., Quiroz, P.A., Secada, W.G., Williams, T. & Ashmann, S. (2002) Transforming teaching in math and science: How schools and districts can support change. Teachers College Press,
Fullan, M., Bennett, B. & Rolheiser-Bennett, C. (1990). Linking Classroom and School Improvement. Educational Leadership, 47 (8), 13-19.
Hiebert, J., Gallimore, R., Stigler, J.W. (2002) A knowledge base for the teaching profession: what would it look like and how can we get one? Educational Researcher, 35 (5) 3-15.
Horizon Research Inc. (2000) 2000 National survey of science and mathematics education. http://2000survey.horizon-research.com
Howey, K.R., Matthes, W.A., & Zimpher, N.L. (1985) Issues and Problems in Professional Development.
Kain, J. F. (1998). Impact of individual teachers and peers on individual student achievement. Paper prepared for the annual meeting of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management,
Kilpatrick, J. & Swafford, J. (Eds.). (2002). Adding It Up.
Loucks-Horsley, S., P. Hewson, N. Love, and K. Stiles (1998). Designing Professional Development for Teachers of Science and Mathematics.
Monk, D., & King, J. (1994). Multi-level teacher resource effects on pupil performance in secondary mathematics and science. In R.G. Eherenberg (Ed.), Choices and Consequences (pp. 29-58).
National Research Council. (2000, December). Educating teachers of science, mathematics, and technology: new practices for the new millennium.
Public Agenda. (2000) Reality Check 2000. Pew Charitable Trust
Reys, B.J. & Fennell, S. Who should lead mathematics instruction at the elementary school level? A case for mathematics specialist. Teaching Children Mathematics, 8(5) , 277-282.
Sanders, W.L. & Rivers, J.C. (1996) Cumulative and residual effects of teachers on future student academic achievement.
Schifter, D, Bastable, V, & Russell, S. (1999) Developing Mathematical Ideas: Number and Operations Part Two: Making Meaning for Operations Casebook and Facilitator’s Guide. Dale Seymour Publications:
Shulman, L. (1986). Those who understand: knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 57, 1-22.
Wenglinsky, H. (2002). How schools matter: The link between teacher classroom practices and student academic performance. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 10(12). Retrieved March 2003 from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v10n12
Wested Policy Brief (2000). Ensuring teacher quality: A continuum of teacher preparation and development. http://web.WestEd.org/online_pubs/po-00-05.pdf