CAREER: Exploring Beginning Mathematics Teachers' Career Patterns

Research increasingly provides insights into the magnitude of mathematics teacher turnover, but has identified only a limited number of factors that influence teachers' career decisions and often fails to capture the complexity of the teacher labor market. This project will address these issues, building evidence-based theories of ways to improve the quality and equity of the distribution of the mathematics teaching workforce. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1506494
Funding Period: 
Friday, August 15, 2014 to Wednesday, July 31, 2019
Full Description: 

Recruiting and retaining effective mathematics teachers has been emphasized in national reports as a top priority in educational policy initiatives. Research indicates that the average turnover rate is nearly 23% for beginning teachers (compared to 15% for veteran instructors); turnover rates for beginning mathematics teachers are even higher. Many mathematics teachers with three or fewer years' experience begin their careers in high-needs schools and often transfer to low-need schools at their first opportunity. This reshuffling, as effective teachers move from high- to low-need schools, exacerbates the unequal distribution of teacher quality, with important implications for disparities in student achievement. Research increasingly provides insights into the magnitude of mathematics teacher turnover, but has identified only a limited number of factors that influence teachers' career decisions and often fails to capture the complexity of the teacher labor market. Thus, it is essential to understand the features, practices, and local contexts that are relevant to beginning teachers' career decisions in order to identify relevant strategies for retention. This project will address these issues, building evidence-based theories of ways to improve the quality and equity of the distribution of the mathematics teaching workforce. This support for an early CAREER scholar in mathematics policy will enhance capacity to address issues in the future.

This work will be guided by three research objectives, to: (1) explore patterns in mathematics teachers' career movements, comparing patterns between elementary and middle school teachers, and between high- and low-need schools; (2) compare qualifications and effectiveness of teachers on different career paths (e.g., movement in/out of school, district, field); and (3) test a conceptual model of how policy-malleable factors influence beginning math teachers' performance improvement and career movements. The PI will use large-scale federal and state longitudinal data on a cohort of teachers who were first-year teachers in 2007-08 and taught mathematics in grades 3-8. Three samples will be analyzed separately and then collectively: a nationally representative sample from the Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study (about 870 teachers who represent a national population of nearly 85,970); about 4,220 Florida teachers; and about 2,410 North Carolina teachers. In addition, the PI will collaborate with Education Policy Initiative at Carolina (EPIC) at UNC-Chapel Hill to collect new data from the 2015-16 cohort of first-year teachers in NC (about 800 teachers) and follow them for 2 years. The new data collection will provide detailed and reliable measures on the quality of both pre- and in-service teacher supports in order to understand how they may be linked to teachers' career movements and performance.

The original award # of this project was 1350158.