UAB announces a new program that will increase STEM teachers in Alabama

By on February 28, 2014
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The University of Alabama at Birmingham is one of five research universities awarded a grant to implement a program that will increase the number of highly trained secondary science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, teachers in the classroom.

The National Math and Science Initiative announced the expansion of the UTeach STEM teacher preparation program made possible by a $22.5 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. UTeach recruits and prepares students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics to enter careers in secondary education by enabling them to earn both a degree in their major and a teaching certification without adding time or expense to their four-year degree program. UAB joins Drexel University, Florida International University, Oklahoma State University and the University of Maryland at College Park as this year’s newest program participants.

“UAB is honored and excited to partner in this innovative program to address our state’s and nation’s urgent need for more highly qualified secondary STEM teachers,” said UAB President Ray Watts, M.D. “We look forward to enabling our graduates to impart their passion and knowledge as teachers, equipping their students for rewarding 21st century careers and creating the intellectual capital for our state and nation to thrive in a global knowledge economy.”

UABTeach is a partnership between the School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences with support from the School of Engineering and the Alabama State Department of Education, as well as the Birmingham, Hoover and Jefferson County school districts and business organizations. Student participants will receive tuition scholarships for initial UABTeach-related courses and be trained by master teachers. While training remains robust, teacher certification is expedited, increasing the Alabama STEM teacher pool.

“This innovative program has the potential to make an important difference in the educational landscape in science and mathematics in the state and beyond,” said Deborah Voltz, Ed.D., dean of the School of Education. “We are very excited to have this opportunity.”

“We are excited to be a part of the UTeach effort that has proved to be effective in advancing K-12 STEM education,” said Robert E. Palazzo, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Through this relationship, the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education will partner to transform science education in the state of Alabama. The positive long-term impact of this effort will benefit Alabama children for generations to come.”

The program is co-directed by Lee Meadows, Ph.D., associate professor of curriculum and instruction, and John Mayer, Ph.D., professor of mathematics, who have created a program focused on educational innovation and workforce development. They believe that UABTeach will make a significant dent in Alabama’s science and math teacher shortage.

“In just a few years, a new day will dawn for students across central Alabama,” Meadows said. “UAB and its UABTeach partners are putting in place a pipeline to make sure all students have a chance to learn science and math at the hands of a knowledgeable and competent teacher.”

“The partnership among STEM and Education faculty at UAB is one of the proven strengths of the UTeach model at the other universities where the model has been adopted,” Mayer said. “UAB’s status as a major research university, with all the opportunities it affords undergraduate students for research experiences in STEM fields, will only enhance UABTeach’s capacity to produce inspiring STEM teachers.”

The program will kick off in the fall of 2014. Each UTeach university will receive $1.45 million toward support of the implementation costs of the program over a five-year grant period. UAB will match that commitment.

“The Alabama State Department of Education is elated about this new opportunity at UAB, accelerating one of the goals of PLAN 2020 to assure an effectively prepared, resourced and supported classroom teacher in every classroom in Alabama,” said Tommy Bice, Ed.D., Alabama State Superintendent. “UABTeach addresses our hard-to-staff math and science classrooms. The content knowledge and real-world experience these teachers will bring to the classroom will be invaluable.”

With the expansion of UTeach to these universities and five more in the fall of 2015, the program will be in 45 universities and is expected to produce more than 9,000 math and science teachers in the United States by 2020 — nearly 10 percent of the 100Kin10 national goal of producing 100,000 new STEM teachers by 2021. Following the national model, UAB anticipates increasing its production of math and science teachers tenfold during the funding period so that we are producing 50 math and science teachers per year.

“The severe shortage of qualified math and science teachers in the United States is undoubtedly contributing to our nation’s growing STEM education crisis,” said NMSI CEO Sara Martinez Tucker. “By increasing access to the proven UTeach model, we’re helping create a STEM pipeline of highly skilled teachers.”

New teachers certifying under UABTeach will begin making an immediate impact on Alabama’s shortage of STEM workers because of their content strengths as math, science or engineering majors and their in-depth training in effective teaching through UABTeach coursework.

Before the current round of funding, the UTeach program, first developed in 1997 at the University of Texas at Austin, was implemented at 35 universities across the country. The UTeach Institute projects that UTeach program graduates will have impacted 4.8 million secondary STEM students nationwide by 2020.

“These universities are home to the world’s top scientific minds and education researchers, and they have a significant role to play in preparing future STEM teachers. Indeed, science and mathematics students at U.S. universities are the only plausible source for the numbers of new science and mathematics teachers the U.S. so greatly needs,” said Michael Marder, Ph.D., executive director of the UTeach Science Program at the University of Texas at Austin.

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