The Virginia Mathematics Specialist Initiative: An Online Program to Prepare K-8 Mathematics Teacher Leaders for High-Needs School Districts is a collaboration between Virginia Commonwealth University, the Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition, the MathScience Innovation Center, and 20 high-need local education agencies across Virginia. This project, funded through an NSF Noyce Scholarship Program Grant, is designed to increase the number and retention of highly qualified, diverse mathematics teacher leaders in Virginia’s high-needs K-8 schools and provide an online professional development and certification program to prepare teachers for these roles. These teacher leaders will support the teachers in their schools and, in turn, help increase student achievement in mathematics.
Research has shown that the preparation and implementation of mathematics specialists is an effective way to provide PD for K-8 teachers of mathematics and ultimately increase student achievement (Campbell & Malkus, 2011; Campbell & Griffin, 2016; Ellington, Whitenack, & Edwards, 2017; Whitenack & Ellington, 2015; Campbell et al., 2013). By providing daily in-school professional development for K-8 teachers of mathematics, mathematics specialists have a positive impact on teachers’ beliefs about how mathematics should be taught so that students develop a solid understanding of the concepts. Three large-scale treatment-control studies revealed that mathematics specialists have an impact on student achievement. They have the most meaningful impact on student learning when mathematics teachers are frequently and highly engaged with the specialist in their school building on a long-term basis.
For more than fifteen years, the Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition has been providing active leadership for the Virginia Mathematics Specialist Initiative. This project is represents the next stage in this initiative and is an opportunity to effectively deploy these leaders in school districts across the state by transitioning a highly effective mathematics specialist preparation program to an online environment, developing an online mentoring program for mathematics teacher leaders in high-needs school districts that will help these leaders be successful in their early years, and increase the number and retention of K-8 mathematics specialists in school districts across Virginia. The overall goal is the development of a sustainable, rigorous, interactive online program for preparing mathematics specialists that will be accessible to teachers in Virginia as well as in other states.