Your social media feed will inundate you with grim statistics about the state of our education system nationwide. Students are falling further and further behind and teacher talent is at a critical shortage. The pandemic did not cause this; it just exacerbated it.
Global business leaders headquartered in Indiana have publicly criticized the state of our education system, saying it gives them pause for thought about how they will build the future of their businesses in Indiana. . For example, David Ricks, CEO of Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co., recently lamented in a speech to the Economic Club of Indiana that only 37% of elementary and middle school students in Indiana have tested their skills in math on the 2019 statewide tests.
For more context, 64% of Indiana schools and districts reported vacancies for math teachers in the past school year, and colleges of education report a 27% decrease in mathematics teacher candidates since 2010. All educational research indicates that a teacher’s expertise is the fundamental influence on student success. The consensus is that there is no expertise in the pipeline.
How could that be? Could it be that a workforce wants to enter the classroom but has too many obstacles? Is it possible that the traditional “Stand and Deliver” model is undesirable and impractical for a digital native workforce? We believe the answer to both is yes.
I affirm that our community has enough talent and expertise to achieve the education system that all of our children deserve. If I asked you if there were enough math teachers, you would rightly say no; however, if I rephrased the question – are there enough people in our communities who could teach math?—you can change your point of view.
I believe that a more fundamental and undiscussed problem is preventing the change we all want. As measured on all nationally accredited rubrics for teacher evaluations, the job of a distinguished teacher is fundamentally impossible for one person to do on a daily basis.
It’s not just difficult. In my opinion, it is impossible.
In 2020, my team at XR Technologies set out to rethink what it meant to equip any type of school with an equitable and viable talent solution. Education is an area where the process is not well defined. To create a well-defined process, we had to get into the mechanics of classroom instruction. It is perhaps unsurprising that this is missing in almost every model of education and technology.
There is no shortcut to this process discovery. We needed our employees in a variety of school settings, managing the classroom with thousands of students. We needed a “department as a service”, where schools would consider outsourcing part or all of their math department to a company solely focused on being the best at teaching math . The teacher talent crisis and the historic disruption of COVID-19 gave us the opportunity we needed. One could say that the recipe for our mission’s success came from the utter disaster of the status quo. If you have school-age children, you have felt this intimately.
Once we have a well-defined process for educators, the next step is to find people who can deploy this process. Many Hoosiers have a bachelor’s degree and seek to serve their community as part of their career.
To eliminate any friction in entering education, XR Technologies recently obtained the ability to license teachers through the State Board of Education (SBOE) and the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) as a transition to learning teaching model. You can work as a teacher while earning a license. The idea that there is a pre-requisite for content expertise no longer holds any weight once you understand the education process. The process only requires a self-directed content expert if the teacher is asked to do the impossible on a daily basis. We refuse to place this burden on teachers.
There are 750,000 Hoosiers in our communities who started a baccalaureate program but did not graduate. A similar number have earned degrees and are not currently using them to advance their career paths. We are not looking for mathematicians or those who have earned STEM or math degrees in their undergraduate programs. Teaching work requires an important prerequisite that is unrelated to your undergraduate experience – do you have the disposition to want to work with children, and can you connect with them and build relationships? If your answer is “yes”, we believe you can be an expert math teacher with Department as a Service innovation.
If we only attracted 1% of Hoosiers from these talent pools to licensure and provided a pathway for them to complete their bachelor’s degree, we would solve the teacher talent problem. You see, our communities have enough talent to have an equitable education, but we needed the process by which they could work to be well defined.