Teacher Efficacy in Secondary Mathematics: Fostering Confidence and Fluency
The research in this paper was conducted at a group of progressive charter secondary schools in southern California utilizing a project-based learning approach. The schools are grounded in the philosophies students learn deeply by being in a fully inclusive environment and by participating in authentic real-world experiences. Students are not tracked by perceived ability and teachers are respected as the designers of their curriculum. Admission into the school is via a lottery system based on zip codes in an attempt to model the surrounding demographics and to ensure equity of access.
The research was conducted around mathematics classrooms across four of the five secondary schools. There are no honors distinction of classes in the 9th and 10th grade years. There are student self-selected honors options in the 11th and 12th grade levels, but the honors and non-honors classes are still contained in one classroom. As the schools are a part of California’s public school network, they have adopted the CCSS of Mathematics (CCSSM) as the framework for their math content and skills requirements. Teaching practices were observed and catalogued along the spectrum from traditional-based or didactic instruction to open-ended, experiential methodologies.
Teachers are required to be state credentialed or be enrolled in a valid credentialing program with credential attainment within two years of employment. Teacher backgrounds range from those with degrees in education to experts or doctorates in specific fields of business or study. New teachers to the charter, regardless of their previous experience, are required to attend a ten day training program prior to the school year. All teachers attend a weeklong pre-service at their given school campuses. Professional development occurs throughout the year, primarily three mornings a week, during the time period from 7:30am to 8:15am (though this and the types of meetings or activities vary by campus).
Specific demographics of the student community consist of a student population who are 37.6% Caucasian, 34.1% Latino, 13.7% Asian, 9.5% African American, 3% American Indian, and 1.6% Pacific Islanders (see Figure 2).
Figure 3 presents the percentage of the student population who has special educational needs (SEN) as 12.8%, free or reduced lunch (FRL) as 38.2%, and only 3.8 % are designated as English language learners (ELL).