Mathematics Support Teacher (MST) Programme 2014 School Research Overview Report

Publication Details

The Mathematics Support Teacher (MST) programme started in 2012 as part of the Programmes for Students initiative . The MST programme provides release time for a teacher to work with groups of students with learning needs that require additional support to classroom teaching. The MST role is partly funded by the Ministry of Education.

Author(s): Nicolette Edgar, Artemis Research. Report prepared for the Ministry of Education.

Date Published: August 2016

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Executive Summary

Background

The Mathematics Support Teacher (MST) programme started in 2012 as part of the Programmes for Students initiative. The MST programme provides release time for a teacher to work with groups of students with learning needs that require additional support to classroom teaching. The MST role is partly funded by the Ministry of Education.

Analysis of MST student achievement data in 2013, summarises the effectiveness of the MST programmes for schools overall. To gain a more detailed understanding of how the MST schools worked with primary students well-below the National Standards in Mathematics to accelerate their progress, case study research was undertaken in 2014 with eight MST schools. The research focused on the effectiveness of the MST programme as a way of raising student achievement, the strategies the schools used with their well-below students and the learning that could be passed onto other schools. Strong evidence of the school achieving accelerated progress for students in their MST programme in 2013 was a key criterion for inclusion in the research.

Interviews were undertaken at each school with the Principal, the MST, the Numeracy Leader (if different from the MST) and a couple of classroom teachers. Interview data was supplemented by other available data to provide a broad picture. Case studies were written up for each school along with an overview report.

Profile of the Case Study Schools

The eight schools selected were from across New Zealand — one in Whakatane, two in South Auckland, one in Rotorua, one in Napier, one in Porirua, one in Wellington and one in Dunedin.

All were low decile schools with high numbers of priority students (Māori and/or Pasifika students). Most of the eight schools had relatively high number of students with English as a second language (ESOL students) and Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funded students. All but one of the schools had previously been involved in the Accelerated Learning in Mathematics (ALiM) project and/or the Specialist Mathematics Teachers (SMT) programme.

Addressing under-achievement in maths amongst students was the key driver for up-take of the MST programme. Addressing issues around the capability of some teachers to teach mathematics was also a driver at some of the schools.

In 2014 five of the case study schools were continuing to provide the MST programme at the same 'strength' as they did in 2013 (four receive no funding for this from the Ministry of Education and one was doing this as a result of new funding from the Ministry); two schools were continuing to provide the MST programme but not to the same extent as in 2013 and one school no longer has the programme in place.

Key Research Findings

Overall, analysis of student achievement data shows that the MST programme is an effective way to raise student achievement for students well-below the National Standard in mathematics in the case study schools. It also impacted positively on the confidence of students in doing mathematics and their attitude towards it.

Strategies that the case study schools found worked best with students well-below in mathematics can be summarised into eight key areas:

  1. get to know your students
  2. withdraw students so they can experience an intense focus on maths learning while still receiving their normal class programme
  3. create a positive fun maths environment, fostering positive mathematical identities and empowering students
  4. identify and target mathematics needs, have explicit goals for learning and high expectations for each student
  5. use rich challenging tasks, familiar contexts and equipment
  6. focus on teaching mathematics language, problem solving and asking students to explain thinking
  7. take a reflective and flexible approach to how needs are met
  8. allow students time to think, process, reflect and practice.

The research also gathered some evidence about what needs to be in place in a school for it to run the MST programme successfully and for the programme to be sustainable.

The most significant factor for setting a strong foundation for the MST programme 'to fly' was selecting the right person to be the MST. Along with this, a school culture with high expectations of students, teachers open to being learners themselves and strong links to parents and the local community were also important.

The research found that the degree of programme success varied across the eight case study schools depending on the extent to which the following were in place as part of implementing the programme:

  1. a focus on using data and on teaching as inquiry in the school
  2. investment in up-skilling classroom teachers and ensuring a whole school approach
  3. leadership support from Principal and Board of Trustees and a commitment to making the programme work
  4. dedicated teaching resource and ideally a dedicated maths room
  5. effective engagement with parents and whānau.

Key factors in creating sustainability in the school once Ministry of Education funding was no longer in place were:

  1. leadership, commitment and support from the Principal (an attitude of making it work)
  2. planning for sustainability from the outset through investing in up-skilling classroom teachers and ensuring a whole school focus on improving maths achievement (more than just taking specific students out of the classroom for an intense programme)
  3. using data to provide evidence to the Board of Trustees and others (e.g. school staff) that the programme has significant value in accelerating progress of students (getting 'buy-in')
  4. commitment to the programme and support from the Board of Trustees.

MSTs acknowledged the positive impact of being involved in the MST programme and its associated professional development despite the challenge of the workload involved. They talked about it changing the way they teach (particularly with students that are struggling) and encouraging them to experiment and try different things.

Footnotes

  1. Programme for Students (PfS): All, ALiM, MST TKI website.
  2. Achievement analyses, Programmes for Students 2014. Ministry of Education 2016

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