Training math teachers

Who produces the most effective math teachers for New York City schools? A study on teacher effectiveness put Teach for America in first place, traditional college programs in second and New York’s Math Immersion program in third, reports the National Council on Teacher Quality. MI, an alternative certification program, produces nearly half the math teachers in the city.

However,  “most of the teachers from one pathway are indistinguishable from teachers who enter through other pathways,” the study found.

College programs and MI vary enormously from site to site, NCTQ points out.

One might expect the Math Immersion program, generally speaking, to be the heaviest on math content, yet the number of credits required among its five sites ranges from only three all the way up to 18. And although the local colleges, on average, are lighter on math methods, they can require as many as seven credits. One might also think that the colleges might err on the side of too much professional coursework — yet almost half of them, for example, fail to require a single course in classroom management.

When new teachers are asked what they wish they’d learned in education school, they often say they weren’t prepared to manage a classroom.

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  1. Not taught to manage a classroom–it’s a lot harder than it looks, too. Good teachers make it look easy.

    Had these teachers been taught some “classroom management techniques”, chances are they’d have the entirely wrong techniques. Remember, this is ed school we’re talking about here. I remember sitting through hours of instruction on how we need to turn our classrooms into “laboratories of democracy”, complete with class meetings and heart-to-heart discussions.

    Yes, because that will work in a high school math class.

  2. “…often say they weren’t prepared to manage a classroom.”

    A few months working as a substitute should do nicely

  3. “When new teachers are asked what they wish they’d learned in education school, they often say they weren’t prepared to manage a classroom.” This assumes that College of Education classs can teach this. I wish I’d learned to levitate. That would make picking avocados much easier.

    In an environment which empoweres principals to hire the staff of their choice, I would recommend that schools hire people with sufficient Math preparaton (Math majors, retired engineers, chemists, Econ majors) and train them on the job in temporary positions as teachers’ aides and department gofers. College of Education coursework should count against applicants for teaching jobs.

    As usual: “What works?” is an empirical question which only an experiment can answer. In the realm of school policy this means numerous local school districts or a competitive market in education services.

  4. I suspect the reason that TFA came out slightly ahead had nothing to do with technique and everything to do with the population’s higher cognitive ability.

    Classroom management at ed schools is indeed useless. It was one of the worst classes I had at Stanford, although the course instructor (who was not the head of my section) was someone I really enjoyed talking to and had excellent insights into teaching.

    But the course was all about setting up procedures, setting up norms, defining expectations–and not a single thing about what to do with the kids who defy you.

    We actually had one entire reading about a teacher who wrote about a student who kept on hitting other students, and her struggles to understand the troubled girl. We were tasked with discussing how the teacher could have reached out in other ways.

    I finally burst out, “Her job is not to understand the student. It’s to keep all students safe. She should have removed her from the classroom–or this paper should have been about why she wasn’t able to remove her, because the school didn’t let her. Which is a real problem. But this teacher is endangering her students.”

    “Well, that’s one way of looking at it,” said the instructor.

    “There’s only one way to look at this, which is how much the school will be forced to pay in lawsuits if this girl, with her record of violence, hurt another student.”

    It was crazy making.


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