A Pivotal Time for Mathematics Teacher Education: Re-establishing the Mathematical Sciences Education Board?
Is there a need for the Mathematical Sciences Education Board?
On May 17, 2016, I participated in a meeting at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to explore the potential role of the Academies in supporting and advancing mathematics education at all levels. At the center of the discussion was the Mathematical Sciences Education Board (MSEB) which has been sunset for a decade. The MSEB operated in the Academies for approximately 20 years as the conduit for evidence-based leadership for mathematics education. Given the absence of an entity with a focus in mathematics education, the catalyst for the convening of this meeting was to discuss challenges and issues related to this absence and to determine if re-establishment is needed.
As a reminder, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide expert advice on challenges facing the nation and the world. The work of the Academies is influential in shaping policies, informing public opinion, and advancing the pursuit of science, engineering, and medicine. Thus, for over a decade the mathematics education community has not been positioned to benefit from the role of the Academies, which is to provide advice to the nation.
In the meeting, we first delved into the historical perspective of the MSEB focusing on past contributions and explanations for why the MSEB was sunset. The second part of the meeting focused on current and future issues of mathematics education PK-higher education; the third and final segment of the meeting was a discussion of the need and viability of a new unit in the Academies focusing on mathematics education. The meeting outcomes included: (a) identification of key issues in mathematics education for the next 5 to 10 years, (b) discussion of the potential role of the Academies in helping to address these issues, and (c) discussion of the viability of re-establishing and sustaining a board or committee focused on mathematics education. It was duly noted and agreed upon that the mathematics education community has a dire need to re-establish a board within the Academy that focuses on mathematics in PK-higher education.
What were the key issues identified?
A plethora of issues were identified, including: student failure rates in the first two years of college mathematics; public misconceptions about the Common Core Standards; issues of diversity, equity and access to a quality mathematics education; institutional barriers to effective mathematics education; critical shortages of mathematics teachers in our nation’s classrooms; the crisis in enrollment in mathematics teacher preparation programs; the shortage of United States citizens with backgrounds in mathematics as required for jobs in national security; the absence of a document from the mathematics education community to guide states under the Every Student Succeeds Act and more. As the issues were identified and discussed, the detriment of not having a focus in mathematics education within the Academies for over a decade was apparent and the need for a Mathematical Sciences Education Board was validated.
How is AMTE positioned to influence engagement of mathematics teacher educators in this development?
As the public voice and lead organization for the improvement of mathematics teacher education, AMTE has continued to have an increased presence in advocating for high quality mathematics teacher education within and beyond the community of the mathematical sciences and will remain vigilant and proactive. This convening meeting included mathematics teacher educators who are members of AMTE including AMTE’s president. This is one indication of how our community is positioned to influence the focus and direction of a re-established MSEB. Other significant ways in which AMTE is positioned to have an influence is: (a) through the dissemination of our 2017 publication of the AMTE Mathematics Teacher Preparation Standards; (b) by including a broader audience in the discussion of the outcomes of initiatives from our Emerging Issues Committee such as the investigation of enrollment in mathematics teacher preparation and the potential impact of the ESSA on teacher preparation; (c) through a broader dissemination of our position statements on Equity, Technology, Formative Assessment and Elementary Mathematics Specialist, and (d) through AMTE’s partnerships as a member organization of the Conference Board of Mathematical Sciences and the Mathematics Coalition for Common Core, and collaboration with NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics), NCSM (National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics), AMATYC (American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges, TODOS (Mathematics for All), and the Benjamin Banneker Association.
This is indeed a pivotal time for further positioning our work as mathematics teacher educators on a national level—specifically, in ways that can influence policy. Thus, it is unequivocally clear a mathematics education board within the Academy can serve us well in our endeavors. As the recommendation for a mathematics education board moves forward within the Academy, we have the opportunity to provide input in shaping the directions for a re-established board. Our Emerging Issues Committee has been charged with the task of investigating strategies for maintaining a focus in mathematics teacher education within a mathematics education board. This work is in progress. Look for updates on our website and for solicitation of your ideas. It is imperative that mathematics teacher education be a central component of this new board within the Academy. The AMTE Board of Directors will work diligently on your behalf to make this a reality.