4 Problems That Keep Math Teachers (and Administrators) Up at Night


Understanding the impetus for a new data-driven approach to professional learning

Last week, DreamBox vice president of learning Tim Hudson presented a live webcast entitled, “Empowering Teacher Agency: How Data-Driven PD Models are Improving K-5 Math Achievement.” In the 60-minute session, Tim addressed the impetus that’s driving new innovations in professional learning and improving teachers’ understanding of mathematics.

A former math teacher and administrator himself, Tim is uniquely qualified to speak to the challenges that keep those of us in education up at night. Specifically, he talked about four key factors that informed the development of a DreamBox prototype professional development (PD) environment:

  1. Student math scores are low—and have been stagnant for a decade.

    The fact is, student achievement in math is not where it needs to be. Only 40 percent of students in Grade 4 and 33 percent of students in Grade 8 are performing at a Proficient level as measured by the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). And, even though achievement has improved significantly since 1990 for students in both grades, levels have actually plateaued since 2005.

  2. Teachers need more support for personalization.

    Differentiation is the order of the day, but according to a study by the Gates Foundation, few teachers feel they have the support they need to truly personalize learning for their students. According to the “Teachers Know Best” report, “Large majorities of teachers do not believe that professional development is helping them prepare for the changing nature of their jobs, including using technology and digital learning tools, analyzing student data to differentiate instruction, and implementing the Common Core State Standards and other standards.”

  3. Educators lack the math content knowledge they need to teach with confidence.

    A study by Michigan State University finds that very few elementary school teachers have a college background in mathematics. For most, their college and pre-service coursework tends to focus more on literacy and reading, rather than on math. Without specialized training, teachers self-report that they feel unprepared to teach effectively on challenging math topics. This makes it difficult to scaffold and differentiate for four students, let alone a classroom of forty.

  4. Only one in three teachers is satisfied with their PD opportunities.

    Despite investing $2.6 billion annually on a federal level for PD and anywhere from $8,000 to $12,000 per teacher per year at the district level, that same Gates study reveals that only 29 percent of teachers say they’re “highly satisfied” with the professional learning they receive. And, for the most part, principals share their concerns. In short, we can do better—and DreamBox recently set out to prove it.

Creating a PD environment that uses data to empower teacher agency

In 2016, DreamBox received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to explore a next-generation personalized model of professional development. Keenly interested in inspiring and empowering teachers, the Foundation has conducted numerous studies on professional development to help identify needs and opportunities for improvement. Building on this key data—the direct feedback of teachers—DreamBox created and tested a professional learning prototype to help teachers deepen their math content understanding on demand, and immediately apply this learning to their classroom practice.

To find out how this exciting new educator-centric model works and effectively leverages student data to address the four challenges discussed above, watch the recorded session, “Empowering Teacher Agency: How Data-Driven PD Models are Improving K-5 Math Achievement” now.

Jennifer Lee

Jennifer Lee

Jenny Lee is a passionate marketer at DreamBox Learning, where she manages national events, webinars, and social media. A lifetime learner, Jenny is currently pursuing her MBA at the University of Washington's Foster School of Business. In her free time, she enjoys outdoors adventures with her dog Allie in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, and chasing creative whims through visual art.
Jennifer Lee