Strengthening the K12 Teacher Workforce
Joan T. Prival, National Science Foundation
Recent national reports, calling attention to the need to increase and enrich the nation's science and engineering talent pool, are placing an increased emphasis on expanding and strengthening the teacher workforce. For example, the report of the National Academies' Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21 st Century, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, called for the annual recruitment of 10,000 math and science teachers as well as strengthening the skills of current teachers. These recommendations are, in part, a reaction to data indicating that many students are taught by teachers lacking a major or certification in the subject area taught. These figures are highest in physics classes where 67% of the students are taught by teachers who are not certified to teach physics or who lack a major in physics. In addition, analyses of national databases indicate that teachers with Bachelors' or Masters' degrees in mathematics and science are associated with higher student performance scores. These findings have led to an increased interest in attracting individuals with strong mathematics and science backgrounds into teaching.
The National Science Foundation offers a number of programs of interest to the Physics Teacher Preparation community. In addition to programs focusing on recruitment and retention of students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, including teaching, NSF programs support research on science and mathematics teacher education, development of materials for educating teachers, and the general improvement of undergraduate STEM education which will impact future teachers as members of the undergraduate student population. The improvement of undergraduate courses and teaching responds to the need for STEM faculty to model best practices for those who are likely to teach in the way they were taught.
The Robert Noyce Scholarship Program is of particular relevance to institutions that are trying to recruit Physics and other STEM students into teaching. This program provides funds to colleges and universities with strong teacher preparation programs to provide scholarships and stipends for prospective mathematics and science teachers. The program offers support for undergraduate students who are majoring in a STEM discipline and support for STEM professionals who are seeking a career change to become a K-12 teacher. In both cases, scholarship and stipend recipients must commit to teaching in a high need school district for two years for each year of financial support. Features of successful proposals under this program include a high quality teacher preparation program, the involvement of STEM faculty in the leadership team, support for new teachers, evidence of a strong partnership with a school district, plans for tracking students to ensure compliance with the service requirement, and a strong evaluation plan that will measure the effectiveness of the project in attracting and retaining exemplary teachers. Consult the Noyce program website for the solicitation and a list of current awards: http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5733&org=DUE&from=home
The Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) program seeks to improve the quality of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for all undergraduate students, including preservice teachers. The program supports efforts to create new learning materials and teaching strategies, develop faculty expertise, implement educational innovations, assess learning and evaluate innovations, and conduct research on STEM teaching and learning. The program supports three types of projects representing three different phases of development, ranging from small, exploratory investigations to large, comprehensive projects. Competitive proposals feature quality, relevance, and impact. They are student-focused, draw from and contribute to the STEM education knowledge base, include expected measurable outcomes and a strong evaluation plan, and engage in STEM education community-building. CCLI information can be found at http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5741&org=DUE&from=home
To increase the number of students (U.S. citizens or permanent residents) pursuing associate and baccalaureate degrees in STEM fields, the STEM Talent Expansion Program (STEP) solicits Type 1 proposals to support full implementation efforts at academic institutions and Type 2 proposals to support educational research projects on associate or baccalaureate degree attainment in STEM. Efforts may include, for example, activities that focus on improving the quality of student learning, interdisciplinary approaches, mentoring, and/or student internships or research experiences. The goal of the project must be to increase the total number of students receiving degrees across all STEM fields. Clearly, increasing the number of STEM majors will expand the pool of potential science and mathematics teachers who have a STEM degree. More information about STEP can be found at http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5488&org=DUE&from=home
The NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) provides funding to institutions of higher education to support scholarships for academically talented, financially needy students majoring in mathematics, science and engineering disciplines. This expands the previous CSEMS program to include the biological sciences, physical sciences in addition to computer and information sciences, mathematical sciences, and engineering. Projects are expected to offer support programs and services and a quality educational program for the S-STEM scholars. More information about the S-STEM program can be found at http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5257&org=DUE&from=home
NSF's Math and Science Partnership Program held its fourth competition this year. Prior to the 2006 competition, the program funded 48 Partnerships aimed at building capacity and integrating the work of higher education with that of K12 to strengthen and reform math and science education. These partnerships have engaged substantial numbers of STEM faculty in the work of improving K12 teaching and learning. Included in the portfolio are Institute Partnerships which are offering Teacher Institutes focusing on the development of school-based intellectual leaders and master teachers. In addition, 32 Research, Evaluation, and Technical Assistance (RETA) projects have been funded and are developing instruments and conducting research on areas relevant to the work of the partnerships. The MSP website contains information about funded projects and resources as well as a link to MSPnet, a rich website with further information about MSP funded projects as well as other resources. http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5756&org=EHR&from=fund
A new program, Discovery Research K-12, incorporates aspects of the former Teacher Professional Continuum, Instructional Materials Development, and Centers for Learning and Teaching programs. DR-K12 supports research, development, and evaluation activities to improve K-12 learning and teaching. The program addresses three Grand Challenges in K12 STEM education: 1) K-12 Mathematics and Science Assessments, 2) Elementary Grades Science, and 3) Cutting-Edge STEM Content in K-12 Classrooms.
Proposals may be submitted in the following areas:
- Applied Research that supports three categories of projects: Evaluative Studies of NSF-Funded Resources and Tools, Studies of Student Learning Progressions, and Studies of Teachers and Teaching.
- Development of Resources and Tools that supports two categories of projects: Assessment of Students' and Teachers' Learning and Instruction of K-12 Students and Teachers.
- Capacity Building that supports two categories of projects: STEM Systems Research and STEM Education Research Scholars.
In addition to these three areas, conferences related to the mission of the DR-K12 program are also supported. Information and the current DR-K12 solicitation can be found at http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=500047&org=EHR&from=home
The National STEM Digital Library (NSDL) http://nsdl.org/ offers an online network of learning environments and resources for STEM education at all levels, including the collections of ComPADRE , which provides educational resources for the physics and astronomy communities through a collaboration involving the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the American Institute of Physics/Society of Physics Students (AIP/SPS), and the American Physical Society (APS). The NSDL program has three tracks: (1) Pathways projects are expected to provide stewardship for the content and services needed by major communities of learners. (2) Services projects are expected to develop services that support users, resource collection providers, and the Core Integration effort and that enhance the impact, efficiency, and value of the library. (3) Targeted Research projects are expected to explore specific topics that have immediate applicability to collections, services, and other aspects of the development of the digital library. Additional information about the NSDL program can be found at http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5487&org=DUE&from=home
Proposers should consult the individual Program Solicitations for specific guidelines for submitting proposals. To receive email notifications of program solicitations as they are released on the Web it is helpful to enroll in MyNSF at www.nsf.gov or check the homepages of the NSF Directorates for news about funding opportunities.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Science Foundation.
Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century (2005). Rising Above The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11463.html
National Center for Education Statistics (2003). Qualifications of the Public School Teacher Workforce: Prevalence of Out-of-Field Teaching 1987 -1988 to 1999-2000. Washington DC : US Department of Education.
Goldhaber, D.D. and D. J. Brewer (1997) Evalauting the Effect of Teacher Degree Level on Educational Performance. In W.J. Fowler (ed.), Developments in School Finance , 1996. Washington , DC : National Center for Education Statistics.
Joan Prival is a National Science Foundation Program Officer in the Division of Undergraduate Education.