CRAFTING A NEW MODELIncreasing college graduation rates for first-generation and under-represented students at the University of Tampa is the primary goal of a new initiative called Student Success - Responding to a National Imperative. Helios is investing $1.3 million over four years in this effort to create an academically effective and socially-supportive environment around students that includes scholarships.
University officials expect gains in graduation rates of up to 17 percent within the targeted population, but they also anticipate gains in students overcoming academic challenges, participating in active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction and enriching educational experiences.
The program reaches across academic, enrollment, student services and financial aid and includes the formation of an Office of Student Success and the creation of micro-academic communities where students can interact with faculty and staff. The initiative includes gap financial aid for students with the greatest financial needs and merit-based incentive awards for students who have demonstrated academic success after their first year.
CHRONICLING THE SUCCESS OF UTEACHIn the national movement to better prepare students to achieve academic success, more emphasis is being placed on equipping students with the problem-solving and analytical skills most often associated with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. As a result, the need for more math and science teachers is on the rise.
In fact, some analysts say that the U.S. will need 200,000 more math and science teachers by 2015 in order to meet ongoing education demands. They also say that the pool of math and science teachers with strong content knowledge is on the decline.
UTeach was created at the University of Texas at Austin in 1997 to respond to national concerns about the quality of K-12 STEM education. The program's premise is to recruit the brightest science, math and computer science majors into secondary teaching careers. It also prepares students through an advanced field-intensive curriculum and promotes retention through support and ongoing professional development.
Helios Education Foundation invested $3 million into the UTeach initiative in 2007 at the University of Florida, Northern Arizona University and Florida State University, providing a $1 million match at each school to help establish each program. Since then, all three programs have successfully recruited, taught and graduated math and science students.
"We started with two master teachers and a handful of students," said Tom Dana, Associate Dean, Academic Affairs, College of Education at the University of Florida. "Now we have four master teachers and 177 students enrolled in various coursework," he added. "Because we've been able to launch UFTeach with gusto from the beginning, it's become an integral part of the university," Dana said.
The program at Northern Arizona University started admitting students in fall 2008. By May 2011, the program had its first four graduates: three in mathematics and one in biology. Prior to implementing the NAUTeach program, the university graduated approximately 30 new teachers per year in math and science. Now, school administrators say they are on track to double that number.
Courtney Stombock, Assistant Dean for Development at Florida State University says FSU-Teach is continuing to flourish. All four graduates from spring 2011 have secured full-time teaching positions and another seven students were expected to receive their degrees in winter 2011. As part of the program, FSU-Teach students serve as tutors in math and science at Godby High School in Tallahassee, Florida.
The UTeach model has been replicated successfully on university campuses around the country. Today, UTeach programs are operating in 14 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas. In spring 2011, over 5,500 undergraduate students were enrolled in UTeach programs across the U.S.
By 2018, officials at the UTeach Institute, which provides assistance and direction to universities replicating the UTeach model, hope to have 7,300 secondary STEM teachers who will have graduated from UTeach programs nationwide. It's estimated that these teachers will impact approximately four million students.
Administrators at the UTeach Institute say that UTeach attracts students by eliminating traditional barriers to certification. The program expands post-graduate options for students, essentially offering "one degree but two career possibilities," with no additional time or cost required. In addition, UTeach graduates become part of an extensive national network of professionals with content expertise and similar pedagogical training.
The UTeach Program is aligned with Helios Education Foundation's focus on teacher quality and training, but it is also grounded in the Foundation's emphasis on STEM education. The continued success of UTeach at the University of Florida, Northern Arizona University, Florida State University and other sites across the country directly impacts the pipeline of qualified STEM educators in the classroom.
If today's students are to achieve postsecondary education success and remain competitive in what is now a global economy, they will need the fundamental analytical and problem-solving skills inherent in STEM education.
Our country will need qualified math and science teachers to impart that knowledge.