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 the United 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 to augment Ms. Reed’s instruction and help her extend her reach in the classroom.
With the lessons learned from COVID about what works best in online instruction, Tysdal knew she wanted a mix of one-on-one instruction and group work 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.
ClearMath Classrooms 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. Monday through Thursday, during a 90-minute block, students rotate between these learning experiences and also receive in-person instruction with Ms. Reed. 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 Reed 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 ClearMath Classrooms best: “With ClearMath Classrooms, 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.
ClearMath Classrooms 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, ClearMath 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 ClearMath teachers and us,” Tysdal says. “The virtual teachers are very astute with managing online classrooms and developing relationships with students.”
How’s ClearMath 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. Ms. Reed feels supported and can spend more time coaching and connecting with her students. And Ms. Tysdal reports that Newcastle High Schools is working with ClearMath 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 also couldn’t be prouder of Ms. Reed, her students, and Newcastle High’s leaders, who saw a problem and found a way to solve it. Well done to all of you!
ClearMath classrooms 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 ClearMath classrooms could help your school or district meet its goals.
Carnegie Learning is shaping the future of education. 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, and creating powerful results for teachers and students alike.Explore more related to this author