See how one rural district found an innovative solution to its teacher shortage.
Nestled at the base of the Black Hills right across the border from South Dakota, Newcastle, Wyoming, is one of the most picturesque places in theUnited States. And with a population of around 3,500, it’s also among the most rural.
Like many schools nationwide, Newcastle High School—the only high school in the Weston County School District #1—was struggling with teacher shortages. Luckily, school administrators weren’t afraid to try something new to connect students to the educational resources they needed.
Because when there’s no obvious solution, you create one.
One High School + One Math Teacher = ?
At the beginning of the 2022 school year, Newcastle High School had one math teacher, Ashley Reed.
To serve its 89 students, Newcastle High needed at least two. New teacher recruiting efforts weren’t working, and the Curriculum Director, Sonya Tysdal, was subbing.
It wasn’t a sustainable solution.
As users of our High School Math Solution, Newcastle was familiar with our company philosophy and educator support system, and they wondered if we could help them address their teacher shortage. In September 2022, they reached out to see if we could provide, in Tysdal’s words, “virtual instruction delivered by certified teachers and customized to Newcastle’s scope and sequence.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Virtual Math Learning From Certified Teachers
After hearing what Newcastle High School was up against, we collaborated on a plan.
With the lessons learned from COVID about what works best in online instruction, Tysdal knew she wanted instruction with high-quality virtual educators supported by an in-person teacher.
She knew that the online platform needed to be easy for students and teachers to use, and the transition to using it needed to be as seamless as possible. And she wanted students to know they could reach out to their online teachers with questions and access lesson recordings if they were absent or needed clarification.
ClearClassrooms were formed to meet Newcastle’s needs. The curriculum comprises small group work facilitated by certified online teachers, access to the write-in consumable textbook, MATHbook, and 1-to-1 learning in MATHia, our adaptive math software.
While Ms. Reed continued facilitating her own classroom, Mr. Abernathy, a long-term substitute, began overseeing Algebra I and II students receiving online instruction. Tysdal also frequented these classrooms to check in with students, collaborate with Mr. Abernathy and the online teachers, and, outside of classroom time, maintained parent contact. The classroom learning environment was also supported by the principal, Bryce Hoffman.
Students enrolled in ClearClassrooms attend and 90-minute block Monday through Thursday, where they rotate between virtual small-group sessions, independent work in MAThia, and in-person instruction with Abernathy and Tysdal. On Friday, a shorter math period is used to conduct formative assessments and reinforce math concepts learned during the week.
This unique classroom model enables Newcastle High School to support rigorous and responsive math learning. Students can build the specific skills they need, and Abernathy can focus on facilitating discussions and giving the specialized attention that helps every student meet their full math potential.
Tysdal sums up the goals and outcomes of ClearClassrooms best: “With ClearClassrooms, we were able to find qualified teachers with experience facilitating collaborative learning and knowledge of the resources we use. The team was committed to customizing teaching services to meet our needs and creating student experiences as close as possible to face-to-face instruction.”
Strong Math Skills Start With Strong Relationships
While employing certified teachers and creating a mix of learning opportunities were essential to Tysdal, she knew that students would not invest time and energy into learning math if they did not feel a personal connection with the people teaching them.
ClearClassrooms stand apart precisely because teachers make it a point to get to know each learner personally and use student interests and assets to make math learning relevant and impactful. Trained in SEL best practices and trauma-informed pedagogy, ClearClassroom teachers know how to make every student feel seen, heard, and valued so they can take risks, collaborate confidently, and fearlessly explore complex mathematical concepts.
More than half a year in, Tysdal reports that relationships between teachers and students are strong. “We’ve been happy with the communication and collaboration between the ClearClassroom teachers and us,” Tysdal says. “The virtual teachers are very astute with managing online classrooms and developing relationships with students.”
How Are ClearClassrooms Going?
In a word, fantastic! Our virtual instructors have already positively impacted the math classrooms of Newcastle High. Students find the online instruction engaging and like getting real-time feedback. Mr. Abernathy feels supported and can spend more time coaching and connecting with his students. And Ms. Tysdal reports that Newcastle High Schools is working with ClearClassroom staff to “continually make tweaks in the system to maximize student learning opportunities for all.” Self-improvement is one of our passions, and we’re so grateful to Newcastle High School for partnering with us to build and refine this truly unique learning environment.
We couldn’t be prouder of Newcastle High’s leaders, teachers, and students who saw a problem and found a way to solve it. Well done to all of you!
ClearClassrooms are an innovative way to differentiate and accelerate math learning—even with staffing challenges. Want to discover more? We'd love to chat with you about how ClearClassrooms could help your school or district meet its goals.
Carnegie Learning is helping students learn why, not just what. Born from more than 30 years of learning science research at Carnegie Mellon University, the company has become a recognized leader in the ed tech space, using artificial intelligence, formative assessment, and adaptive learning to deliver groundbreaking solutions to education’s toughest challenges. With the highest quality offerings for K-12 math, ELA, literacy, world languages, professional learning and more, Carnegie Learning is changing the way we think about education, fostering learning that lasts.Explore more related to this author