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“The design of the program was shaped by col- laborative planning among math and science experts, master teachers, and educational researchers who understood the latest research-based educational theory and practice,” says Lawrence D. Abraham, chair of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Texas College of Education.

From the start, UTeach was highly success- ful...and popular. Approximately 85 percent of the program’s graduates enter teaching within a year and 70 percent are still teaching after five years. Nationally, only about 50 percent of science and math teachers stay in the profession after five years. The UTeach program also graduates more minori- ties than the school’s College of Natural Sciences, and participants have a higher GPA than their coun- terparts at the College of Natural Sciences.

Now, the program is going national. The National Math and Science Initiative and the UTeach Institute asked for proposals in March 2007 to select 12 institutions that will receive up to $3.4 million in funding to replicate the same program. More than 50 schools submitted proposals and NAU was among those selected.

“A team of reviewers carefully evaluated NAU’s ability to implement all of the elements of success of UTeach,” says Tracy LaQuey Parker, director of the UTeach Institute. “NAU impressed all the reviewers with its desire, initiative and capability to implement the program.”

ExxonMobil funded the initial $125 million to the National Math and Science Initiative efforts nation- wide. The Helios Education Foundation contributed an additional $1 million directly for the NAUTeach program. The funding helps run the program but also goes toward scholarships and tuition reimbursement. The program benefits these companies by creating a larger pool of students proficient in math and the sci- ences,” LaQuey Parker points out.

Daniel Kain, dean of NAU’s College of Education, believes the program will have a profound impact in the months and years to come. “The National Math and Science Initiative recognizes NAU’s long-term commitment to excellence in teacher education—that is the history of our university,” he explains. “This award represents a charge for NAU to take on the se- rious business of preparing more teachers to address the changing needs of our state and nation.”

Adds Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano: “By foster- ing innovation in our classrooms, we can regain our status as a global leader in scientific discovery.”

Making the Grade

Ensuring that all primary and secondary schools are staffed with teachers proficient in math and science is no easy task. Despite a constant barrage of studies, reports and commissions, the shortage persists—and it has serious ramifications.According to a 2002 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, 37 percent of high school math teachers and 31 percent of science teachers lack a major or certification in their field.“The lack of specialized knowledge is a serious issue,”says Julie Gess-Newsome.

The UTeach program and its offshoots at 12 other campuses around the country, including NAU, are part of a broader initiative to increase the number of teachers—particularly those with knowledge, background and degrees in math and the sciences. For example, 20 percent of today’s teaching force is composed of novice teachers from alternative route programs, according to the U.S. Department of Education.These programs—which select participants based on knowledge, experience and background—require only a bachelor’s degree and additional coursework. It’s ideally suited for those looking to recareer.

In addition, private organizations such as the National Education Association and the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, are working to fill the void; initiatives such as Troops to Teach- ers are attempting to entice members of the military to enter teach- ing; and states are getting into the action as well. For instance, in 2006, Ohio earmarked $2.6 million in grants to higher education institutions for training 260 Ohio teachers and mid-career professionals in high- need and hard-to-staff subject areas.

Says Gess-Newsome:“There’s a growing recognition that we must find a way to fill the gap.”

naualumni.com I Spring 2008


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