The founder and chief executive officer of Indianapolis-based startup XR Technologies calls the shortage of math teachers in Indiana “beyond crisis.” Kevin Berkopes’ company helps fill those roles by accelerating the teacher training and licensure process. In May, the ed-tech firm received Indiana State Board of Education approval to offer the licensing program to get newly trained math teachers into the classroom.
In an interview on Inside Indiana Business with Gerry Dick, Berkopes said a $5 million grant from IDOE helps to support the training of teachers and placement in schools.
“It’s competency based, which means we can employ teachers at schools. They get competency for the work that they’re doing and the training that we do to make sure they’re excellent mathematics teachers,” said Berkopes.
The pandemic created chaos for schools, forcing them to close and adopt remote learning. When schools were allowed to reopen, many Indiana school districts saw a growing of teacher resignations and retirements, creating a shortage in the teaching ranks, especially in mathematics.
“It’s 10 years, so 20 years really in the making. But the pandemic really exacerbated everything that de-incentivized people to want to not be a part of the education system,” said Berkopes. “You can imagine what it was like in the last three years in classrooms with students who are not in classrooms.”
The company has about 50 employees, many of which are in a second career as a math teacher. They already possess a bachelor’s degree but want to enter education through a different profession.
“There’s a different way of thinking about how to get innovation into our education system. The Department of Education is leading with the idea that they can incentivize through grant funding and other things to get schools to try something new,” Berkopes said.
Previously, the traditional credentialing process would require XR Technologies to partner with a university to help teachers obtain their Indiana teaching license. But after receiving approval from IDOE, future math teachers can now pursue a license while working in a school for XR Technologies.
He says their path is a quicker and less expensive way than enrolling in a university teacher training program.
“That first academic year they get full time salary benefits stock options with our company, but they also up their credential and get a licensure,” said Berkopes.
Beyond training, the company also offers a broader service platform to schools that want to outsource a portion of the entirety of their math department functions.
“I think the best way to say it’s a ‘Math Department-as-a-Service, which is very different than what you would see on the open market,” said Berkopes. “We run all or part of the mathematics departments for our school partners.”